Actor Griff Rhys Jones’ childhood exploits on Essex coast in RNLI’s 200 Voices

Lifeboats News Release

The RNLI’s new 200 Voices podcast launched on Friday 18 August 2023 and, in the run-up to the charity’s bicentenary on 4 March 2024, an episode will be released every day for 200 days, exploring captivating stories from the charity’s history, through to the current day.

Actor Griff Rhys Jones

RNLI/Richard Adams

Actor Griff Rhys Jones

This month, Suffolk actor and sailor Griff Rhys Jones tells listeners why he feels safer on stage than on water through reminiscing his early trips to West Mersea where his father once aided the RNLI lifeboat crew to save a man's life and how at times the sea can be a place of frenzy.

Griff Rhys Jones is no stranger to water and his appreciation for the RNLI goes all the way back to his childhood trips to West Mersea where his father once tied a man upside down to a ladder – Griff explains why it was a kinder act than it sounds!

It was early season around April when in West Mersea Griff and his father witnessed the RNLI lifeboat crew launch to assist a casualty who had capsized in a small dingy.

Griff said: ‘I had been in West Mersea when the marine went up. The signal went up, there was a big bang and suddenly people were rushing down and getting into a big boat. What was notable about it was that somebody had gone out in a dingy, it would’ve been very very cold, and they’d capsized. They had to get the lifeboat out to get them back, which they did, and then my father was recruited to help the casualty who had virtually drowned because he was a Chest Phyician, a doctor. All I remember is my father, he organised a ladder to come and turned him [the casualty] upside down tied to the ladder so they could drain his lungs. They gave him artificial respiration to save his life. It was rather a bizarre thing to see your dad suddenly in action.’

Having grown up around the coast, Griff has always had a sense of adventure. He tells listeners a story of a longer passage he sailed which to this day has caused him to still get a nagging feeling about the sea – a place he regards at times as a place of frenzy.

Griff said: ‘I've been out there but I've never been in the really extremes when the sea becomes a place of frenzy. Once you’ve been in it, it becomes exhausting and slightly terrifying. The extremes of the way that the weather suddenly comes and sits on you and just blows and blows and blows.

‘So, I don’t envy people in anyway when they have to go out in real storms and attend to people.’

The charity has been saving lives at sea since it was founded in 1824 and, in that time, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 144,000 lives. Funded by voluntary donations, and with lifeboats crewed by specially-trained volunteers, the RNLI is a truly unique rescue organisation with a remarkable 200-year story to tell – many highlights of which are shared through the podcast series.

Available across all podcast platforms and the RNLI’s website, listeners can hear from survivors, supporters, volunteers, lifeguards, celebrity ambassadors, historians and many more from across the UK and Ireland – and beyond.

The 200 Voices series also includes celebrity ambassadors such as The Sixth Commandment actor Timothy Spall, Gavin and Stacey actress Ruth Jones, Irish musician Phil Coulter, gold medal Olympian Sir Ben Ainslie and BAFTA-winning actress Joanna Scanlan.

RNLI Strategic Content Manager, Rory Stamp said: ‘We knew we had to do something really special to mark the RNLI’s 200th anniversary, which is such a monumental milestone.

‘200 Voices is an incredible collection of stories that are emotive, powerful, inspiring and heart-warming. The series gives us a chance to hear from a whole variety of amazing people who have played a part in or been touched by our lifesaving charity.

‘200 Voices is the first in a programme of activity planned to mark the RNLI’s bicentenary as we celebrate the world-class lifesaving service we provide today, remember our remarkable history and aim to inspire the future generations of lifesavers and supporters as we move through into the next 200 years.’

Launch into a podcast like no other: Listen to the RNLI’s 200 Voices daily wherever you get your podcasts or at

To find out more about the RNLI’s bicentenary, visit

Notes to Editor:

  • An audio trailer for 200 Voices can be downloaded here and the video trailer here.

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.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

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.