Nine Bedfordshire cyclists to commemorate Lusitania disaster’s youngest survivor
Audrey Lawson Johnston, late of Melchbourne, Bedfordshire, was the youngest survivor of the Lusitania disaster and a lifelong RNLI fundraiser, now her family are commemorating her legacy with ‘Audrey’s Farewell’ charity bike ride to raise vital funds for both New Quay and Tower RNLI Lifeboat Station
Leaving Swansea on Friday 8 September 2023, more than 20 cyclists will ride 190 gruelling miles across the stunning coastline of south-west Wales to raise money for the RNLI, whilst commemorating Audrey Lawson Johnston.
The peloton of riders – nine of whom hail from Bedfordshire - will aim to complete the journey in just 72 hours in a bid to raise £25,000 to be split between two RNLI lifeboat stations: New Quay in west Wales and Tower – the RNLI’s busiest lifeboat station situated on the River Thames in London.
Audrey Lawson Johnston was just three months old when she was pulled into a lifeboat during the Lusitania disaster on 15 May 1915. The ship that was travelling from New York to Liverpool, had been hit by German torpedoes and quickly sank off the Old Head of Kinsale with 1,195 lives lost. While Audrey’s parents and brother survived, she lost her sisters Amy and Susan in the sinking.
Audrey supported the RNLI throughout her life and was relentless in her fundraising efforts for the lifeboats. Alongside her brother, the pair raised money for a new lifeboat at New Quay RNLI, the nearest lifeboat station to where they were rescued. The lifecraft was named the Amy Lea after their mother.
Audrey, who lived most of her life in Melchbourne, passed away in 2011 and when the Amy Lea lifeboat retired the following year, Audrey’s family continued her fundraising legacy and links to New Quay by raising enough money for the town’s current lifeboat the Audrey LJ.
Now the Audrey LJ is coming to the end of its operational life and will be retired at the end of this year. Since 2012 the lifeboat has launched 188 times, aided 150 people and saved the lives of six people.
Inspired by their granny, four of Audrey’s grandchildren, based in the county, are taking part in the charity ride. Mark Hudson, also of Melchbourne, is one of them and is the lead event organiser. He said: ‘My granny was an absolute trailblazer and did so much in her life to raise money for the RNLI. After serving the community of New Quay for 10 years, The Audrey LJ will be retired and this bike ride is a tribute to both the lifeboat and Audrey herself, the wonderful story of someone who was saved from drowning at sea, who dedicated her life to help the RNLI to do the same for others.’
‘I can’t think of a more noble thing than volunteering and risking your own life to help others that are in danger. I want to raise as much money as possible so the volunteer lifeboat crews can to continue their lifesaving work.’
The route will take the cyclists across the Gower and up to Carmarthen, it then follows the coast route through to St. David’s before arriving at New Quay on Sunday 10 September.
Along the way the cyclists will be stopping off at all 10 RNLI lifeboat stations including The Mumbles, Horton, Burry Port, Tenby, Angle, Little Haven, St. David’s, Fishguard, Cardigan and New Quay.
New Quay RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager, Roger Couch, said: ‘Audrey was a remarkable woman who did so much for the RNLI and selflessly helped others. Her family have continued her lifesaving legacy through their dedicated fundraising and we are so grateful to them all for their efforts over the last 20 years.
‘They have undoubtedly saved many lives through the money they’ve raised and have touched the lives of hundreds of families.’
Niall Daws, Lifeboat Press Officer at Tower RNLI station said: ‘We at Tower are especially humbled and grateful to Audrey’s family for their efforts in raising money for our station by this bike ride and consider it a supremely fitting way to celebrate the life and legacy of such an extraordinary woman.
‘As the busiest lifeboat station in the RNLI, we have no doubt that the money raised by the “Audrey’s Farewell” commemorative bike ride will continue the substantial impact Audrey has had on the RNLI, and its mission, and will help save many more lives in the years to come.’
Upon arrival at New Quay Lifeboat Station, there will be a reception paying tribute to Audrey and the lifeboat in her name, whose volunteer lifeboat crew have served a decade of service to the Ceredigion community.
The cyclists from Bedfordshire are:
Hugh Hudson, Mark Hudson, Christo Hudson, Will Tusting, Sue Tusting, Douglas Hansen-Luke, Charlie Hanbury, Eoin O'Cearbhaill, Tom Parrish.
To support and donate – please visit the event JustGiving page.
The charity bike ride, known as ‘The Tour de Dyfed & West Glamorgan’ / ‘Audrey’s Farewell’ is sponsored by Oxford Innovation Space, RatesMate, Cyclefit Store Street, Karma Drinks, Gower Brewery and Princes Gate.
Notes to Editor:
· Audrey’s grandson, Mark Hudson is available for interviews on request.
· Additonal photos can be found in this Google Drive folder
Below is a rough schedule for the ride: Audrey’s Farewell / RNLI Tour De Dyfed
Friday 8 September (day1):
· 8.30am – depart Swansea Premier Inn (City Centre) by 8.30am
· 9am – arrive The Mumbles RNLI
· 9.15am – depart The Mumbles RNLI
· 10.45/11am – arrive Port Eynon RNLI
· 11.30am – depart Port Eynon RNLI
· 2-3.30pm – lunch stop at Burry Port RNLI
· Finish day one in Tenby.
Saturday 9 September (day 2):
· 9am – arrive Tenby RNLI
· 9.15am – depart Tenby RNLI
· 10.30/11am – arrive Angle RNLI
· 11.15am – depart Angle RNLI
· 1-2pm – lunch stop at Little Haven RNLI
· 4.30/5pm – arrive St David’s RNLI (finish day two).
Sunday 10 September (day 3):
· 7am – leave St David's
· 8.15am – arrive Fishguard RNLI
· 8.30am – depart Fishguard RNLI
· 10.30/11am – arrive Cardigan RNLI
· 11.15am – depart Cardigan RNLI
· 1.15-2pm – arrive New Quay RNLI (event finish line).
RNLI media contacts
For more information about the event or to arrange any interviews/potential media opportunities, please contact Beth Robson, RNLI Regional Media Officer, at [email protected] or 07977 728294.
Alternatively you can contact the RNLI Press Office on [email protected] or 01202 336789.
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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