Portsmouth RNLI pays tribute to amazing benefactor
Volunteers at Portsmouth RNLI have been paying tribute to long-standing volunteer and benefactor Brian Bass, whose name graced the station’s D class lifeboat Brian’s Pride for more than a decade.
Brian dedicated nearly two decades of his life to fundraising for the charity that saves lives at sea. As well as leading various fundraising events he also encouraged friends and family to donate to the RNLI, instead of giving him birthday and Christmas presents.
His passion for the RNLI was shared by his wife of 45-years, Marilyn Bass and the couple were able to fund a lifeboat which carried his name. Placed on service on 6 August 2009 Brian’s Pride launched 341 times, saved 26 lives and aided 250 people before it was retired in 2020. Such was Brian’s dedication that he often lent a hand cleaning the lifeboat after training at the station on Sundays!
The crew at Portsmouth Lifeboat Station learnt with great sadness that Mr Bass had passed away on 28 September 2022, aged 85. On Friday, the 7 October, the flag at the station was flown at half-mast in respect. Additionally, the crew, alongside Mrs Bass, held a one minute of silence in memory of their honourable supporter. He leaves a lasting legacy at Portsmouth Lifeboat Station which will continue long into the future.
Mrs Bass said it was Brian’s dream to have a lifeboat in his name: ‘He didn’t want people to buy him things, so instead, he wanted donations to the RNLI. It meant an awful lot to him to have a lifeboat in his name. When we researched names for the lifeboat, we decided it had to be something short and simple, so we decided to go with Brian’s Pride.’
Built with the latest technology for improved speed, manoeuvrability and equipment, the D class inshore lifeboat is considered the workhorse of the RNLI fleet.
Mr Bass was also instrumental in RNLI’s community fundraising appeal organised in 2019 with the aim to replace Brian’s Pride with a new D class lifeboat at Portsmouth, later named The Dennis Faro. Mr Bass made a generous donation towards the Portsmouth Lifeboat ‘Puzzle’ initiative*, and with the shared support from local businesses and the public, the volunteering crew could continue their lifesaving work on a new D class.
During the naming ceremony of the new lifeboat, which took place in April this year, those gathered at the station heard from Marilyn Bass, who officially handed Brian’s Pride’s replacement, The Dennis Faro, into the care of Portsmouth RNLI.
Neil Maxwell, RNLI Helm at Portsmouth Lifeboat Station, said:
‘Brian and Marilyn played an active part in Brian’s Pride life, passionately following the lifeboat’s career with the RNLI. To the delight of our crew and station management, they became part of the station’s family, popping down every couple of months and bringing the most amazing chocolate brownies.
‘Brian was always keen to know what jobs the lifeboat had been involved with and understand the intricacies of different technical rescues. True to its name - Brian’s Pride - Brian took immense pride in the condition of the lifeboat and was often to be found lending a hand with the cleaning of the boat on a Sunday following our training.
‘As the crew says goodbye to Brian and joins Marilyn in mourning his loss, we trust that his spirit will rest easy knowing what an impact his generous gifts made. Not just to the people who are still alive today because of it, but also the many volunteering crew who could train and conduct rescues because of Brian’s and Marilyn’s acts of philanthropy.’
Mrs Bass’s involvement with the charity was encouraged by her late husband, who had accompanied her during the RNLI Water Safety Education visits she conducted for nearly two decades. Talking about her decision to volunteer and teach young people and adults how to stay safe in, on and around the water, Mrs Bass said:
‘Brian told me I could give water safety talks because I’m good at public speaking as I’ve been a teacher for so long. But I said I didn’t know one end of the boat to the other, and he responded that I could learn, so I decided to try it.
‘I later met two Water Safety Education representatives who took me along for one of their school visits, and that progressed because I enjoyed it so much. I also gave talks throughout the borough of Bromley to adult groups, and I’ve continued doing that for almost 20 years. Brian had always come with me. He would collect donations and help me, and we worked as a team.
‘Brian would wear his RNLI uniform everywhere, even when we would be with friends, sometimes with a lifeboats tie,’ Mrs Bass laughed. ‘Later on, when he couldn’t volunteer anymore, he would still wear his jacket with the charity’s logo. The RNLI had been his life,’ she added.
Brian, who joined the charity in 2004 right after his retirement, had started his long journey with the RNLI as a fundraising volunteer at Bromley West Wickham and Hayes Fundraising Branch. Two years down the line he became Chairman of the branch, a role he had until 2013. Mr Bass had also been RNLI Governor and participated in RNLI Annual General Meetings (AGMs).
Chris Sutcliffe, Chairman at RNLI Bromley West Wickham and Hayes Fundraising Branch, said:
‘Brian was a superb and dedicated chairman, and together with Marilyn, his wife, hosted strawberry teas, and evenings with fine suppers at their home as fundraising events.
‘With his inspiration and leadership, the branch organised a unique fundraising event for the RNLI in May 2011, when a Croydon Tram was hired for a day. Two three-hour trips of the network were operated with musical entertainment on board, and at-seat refreshments. Brian will be greatly missed.’
Notes to editors
- *Portsmouth Lifeboat ‘Puzzle’ was a community-led appeal aimed to raise £52,000 for a new D class lifeboat. One key feature of the appeal was to encourage people to fund pieces of a puzzle - a full-size photo of the previous Portsmouth D class lifeboat – Brian’s Pride - divided into 300 pieces, each representing a £175 donation towards the fund.
- The appeal was a success and Portsmouth RNLI’s new D class lifeboat was officially named The Dennis Faro in April 2022. The name was chosen as tribute to a former crew member who was honoured by the charity for the part he played in saving four lives during his career with the RNLI.
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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 over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, 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.
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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