Former Sheerness RNLI Coxswain honoured with Freedom of the Borough
Sheerness Coxswain, Robin Castle MBE, who retired from the RNLI earlier this year, has become one of only a handful of people in recent years to be honoured with the Freedom of the Borough of Swale.
In a ceremony which took place during an Extraordinary Council Meeting, councillors voted unanimously to confer upon Robin the title of ‘Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Swale’.
The honour was made ‘to acknowledge forty years of distinguished service at Sheerness RNLI Lifeboat Station and helping to keep residents and visitors to the Isle of Sheppey safe’.
Robin, 67, who was born in Queenborough, said he was ‘very honoured and humbled’ by the title, which he said was an acknowledgement of the lifesaving work of all the volunteers at Sheerness RNLI Lifeboat Station, both past and present.
Only a very small number of people have been granted the status of Freeman of the Borough including musician and campaigner Bob Geldof KBE and Paralympian and TV presenter Steve Brown.
Speaking at the ceremony, Councillor Cameron Beart, who represents Queenborough and Halfway, proposed that the honour be given to the former RNLI coxswain:
‘The title of Honorary Freeman is a rare one, reserved exclusively for those that the council feel has rendered eminent services to the borough. As such, the title has only been awarded seven times in the history of this council’.
Mr Beart told the meeting, which was also attended by representatives from the crew of Sheerness RNLI, that Robin had joined as a full-time coxswain mechanic in November 1981 and was awarded a Bronze Medal for Gallantry for saving the lives of two anglers during the Hurricane of 1987 when they were cut off by the unexpected storm.
‘The lifeboat put to sea in over 100mph winds and was skilfully manoeuvred in extremely shallow waters to rescue the father and son from their craft and return them to safety,’ he said.
Robin remained in command of the Waverley class lifeboat that carried out this rescue, the Helen Turnbull until 1996 when Sheerness received its new Trent class lifeboat The George and Ivy Swanson which he commanded throughout its entire 25 year service life at Sheerness. During their time on station Robin and the ‘George and Ivy’ as it was affectionately known, were called out 692 times with 1054 people aided and 29 lives saved.
In 2010, Robin was made an MBE by HM The Queen as part of her New Year’s Honours List and in 2011 was awarded a Long Service award for 30 years with the RNLI.
Robin retired from the charity that saves lives at sea after four decades of unbroken service this summer. His last role as coxswain was to sail ‘The George and Ivy Swanson’ to the RNLI’s HQ in Poole, following the arrival of the station’s new state of the art Shannon class lifeboat ‘Judith Copping Joyce’.
‘The manager of the All Weather Lifeboat centre who received her was quoted as saying “in 20 years, I have seen long serving lifeboats coming back to base in great condition – the Sheerness lifeboat was immaculate. The best I have ever seen”. A true testament to Robin’s dedication to the boat, the station, and the institution,’ Councillor Beart told the meeting.
‘So to Robin, I would like to say three things,’ he added. ‘Firstly, thank you for your service to the borough and to the Isle of Sheppey, secondly, have a very long and happy retirement and lastly, apologies if this spoils your plans for the weekend, but this title unfortunately does not give you the right to drive sheep over the Sheppey crossing’.
Photos 1 and 2 Robin Castle MBE is made a Freeman of the Borough of Swale.
Photo 3 Robin Castle MBE
Photo 4 Robin Castle is awarded his MBE by Her Majesty the Queen.
Photo 5 Robin Castle with crew aboard the Sheerness Lifeboat.
Note to Editors:
In 1969 the Royal National Lifeboat Institution decided to place a lifeboat at Sheerness on evaluation. In 1970 the Committee of Management decided to establish Sheerness as a permanent lifeboat station.
Today Sheerness is one of the busiest lifeboat stations within the RNLI, regularly launching more than 100 times at year, split between its Shannon class all-weather lifeboat and D-class inshore lifeboat. The station is located within Sheerness Docks which does not have public access, however the boats and crew can be seen at various public events in and around the Swale area.
Vic Booth, Lifeboat Press Officer, Sheerness RNLI (07926) 904453 email@example.com
Paul Dunt, Regional Media Officer, RNLI SE and London (07785) 296252 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.