RNLI captures moment in time during 130th anniversary of world first collection

Lifeboats News Release

Crowds flocked to St Ann’s Square in Manchester today to witness the re-creation of a famous image taken on this day in 1891.


Modern day RNLI fundraising in Manchester city centre

The first collection in history took place in response to a disaster off the North West coast when 27 men from Southport and St Anne’s tragically lost their lives, whilst attempting to rescue sailors from the stricken vessel Mexico.

The world’s first ever charity street collection began with an impressive horse-drawn lifeboat parade through the city. It featured a parade of bands, floats and lifeboats through the streets of Manchester and raised over £5,000.

Today, a modern Atlantic 85 lifeboat was brought into the city centre and RNLI crews and lifeguards were thrilled to meet members of the public and talk about their roles in saving lives at sea. Visitors enjoyed meeting with members of the RNLI’s Water Safety Team who spoke with hundreds of people about staying safe on the coast. A collection took place and the charity was thrilled with the generosity and response across the city.

Event organiser and RNLI Community Manager Sophie Wood says:

‘We have all been truly overwhelmed by the response to today’s event in Manchester. People can really appreciate the connection between the city and the sea and have been genuinely interested in finding out more about our fantastic charity and how they can support us. Our crews wouldn’t be able to continue saving lives if it weren’t for the generosity of the public and Manchester has proved more than ever today that the city has a huge heart.

‘It’s a little-known fact that here in Manchester is where it all began. The world’s first street collection really did change the face of fundraising forever and it’s humbling to know that that world-first was in aid of the RNLI and the format is still as successful today as it was then.’

Taking centre stage in the photo re-creation was Ben and Hannah Williamson from Salford and their three children. Ben was bodyboarding at Perran Sands, when he feared for his life after being swept by the current 100 metres away from the shoreline. The horror unfolded as Ben's wife Hannah and their three young children, Megan, seven, and five-year-old twins Niamh and Sammy, watched from the beach. Ben’s life was saved by the St Agnes RNLI crew.

During the organisation of the photographs, the famous Lytham St Annes Shanty Crew kept audiences entertained. There were also plenty of fascinating historical exhibitions and artefacts on display to the public.

If you couldn’t make it to the collection, please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/RNLIManchester130.

RNLI media contact

For more information contact Danielle Rush, RNLI Regional Media Manager in Wales and the North West on 07786 668829 or the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789 or email [email protected].


A historical images of the world's first street collection 130 years ago


The Williamson family take centre stage in the modern day images in Manchester


Stormy helps to make the event a fun one in Manchester City Centre

RNLI/Danielle Rush

The famous Lytham St Annes Shanty Crew kept audiences entertained.


Alex Doig, chair of the Manchester fundraising branch was delighted with the response from the public

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.