Forever Proud: Janet Madron – ‘I’m so proud of what he did, what he tried to do’

Lifeboats News Release

In episode 33 of the RNLI's 200 Voices podcast, Janet Madron, widow of Penlee RNLI Mechanic Stephen Madron who was lost in the 1981 disaster, recalls the special moment she was asked to attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on behalf of the RNLI.

Janet has been a part of Penlee RNLI for over 50 years, joining the lifesaving charity in 1970 as a volunteer just two weeks after marrying her husband, Penlee Lifeboat Mechanic, James ‘Stephen’ Madron.

In this podcast episode, Janet recalls the fateful day of 19 December 1981, when all eight lifeboat crew members of the Solomon Browne were lost attempting to rescue the crew and passengers onboard the stricken coaster Union Star.

‘I just had this awful feeling, I don’t know why. I remember he hadn’t even eaten his meal and I went down to the kitchen, we had a Rayburn, I opened the door and as I put it in I thought; “He’s not coming back for this”.’

Forever Proud: Janet Madron is a moving yet heart-warming story of a young mother of two who lost her husband in a lifeboat tragedy. But guided by community spirit and love, has used her grief to help others and continue a lifesaving legacy to this day as part of the Penlee RNLI family.

‘After he was lost I didn’t quite know what to do. I carried on and I’m so glad that I did because it’s such a big part of my life now and I just really enjoy it. I love the whole thing, working in the shop, meeting people, talking to people – it’s filled my life up really.’

It was on an unassuming Sunday morning in September last year when Janet got a call from RNLI Chief Executive, Mark Dowie, asking her if she would like to attend the State Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on behalf of the RNLI.

‘When he asked me I was speechless and my first reaction was, “I can’t do that”. I went off to chapel and thought about it – really it was all that was on my mind. When I came out I thought; “I can do this and I am so privileged and honoured to be asked.” I can’t thank Mark enough.

‘I wore Stephen’s medal and my BEM and I just felt so proud and so privileged to be a part of it all and represent the RNLI – it was wonderful.’

RNLI Chief Executive, Mark Dowie, said:

‘When invited to nominate a volunteer to represent the entire RNLI, Janet was the obvious choice. She embodies the RNLI values of selflessness, courage, dependability and trustworthiness in everything she has done since that fateful night on 19 December 1981 when her husband made the ultimate sacrifice in saving lives at sea.

‘Over the past 42 years, Janet has dedicated herself to rebuilding the lifesaving community in Penlee, raising essential funds, and inspiring a future generation of lifesavers. The RNLI is in awe of her significant contribution in turning tragedy into such a powerful legacy to the eight crew of the Solomon Browne.’

Janet’s episode will be released on Tuesday 19 September 2023, on the one year anniversary of the State Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. The episode is a part of the unique RNLI 200 Voices podcast series, where a remarkable story is released every day for 200 days in the run-up to the charity’s bicentenary on 4 March 2024.

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 south west, UK, Ireland and beyond.

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 an incredible 200-year story to tell – many highlights of which are shared through the podcast series.

Launch into a podcast like no other: Listen to the RNLI’s 200 Voices daily and catch up on the episodes so far wherever you get your podcasts or at

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

Notes to Editor:

  • An RNLI spokesperson is available for interviews on request
  • Upcoming episodes connected to the south west:
Blazing a Trail: Di Bush
Maurice Hutchens: To the End
Forever Proud: Janet Madron
A Buddy Story: Jeff Everett
Pay it Forward: Lise Vittrup
  • Catch-up on previous episodes connected to the south west:
'Daddy's Gone': Hannah Williamson

Ann Cleeves: A True Story

The Power of Padstow: Mary Taylor

Surviving the Surf: Sophie Grant-Crookston

RNLI media contacts

For more information contact Claire Fitzpatrick-Smith, RNLI Regional Media Officer, on [email protected] or 07977 728 315, or Amy Caldwell, Regional Media Manager on [email protected] or 07920 818 807.

Alternatively, you can RNLI Press Office on [email protected] or 01202 336789.

Janet holding a photo of Stephen

RNLI/Nigel Millard

Janet awarded the British Empire Medal for her services to the RNLI
Janet with her daughter at Queen Elizabeth II's State Funeral


Janet attended the State Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II with her daughter

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.