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Ramsgate RNLI mark the passing of a past volunteer crewman.

Lifeboats News Release

The flag is flying half mast at Ramsgate Lifeboat Station as we mourn the passing of Ronald (Ron) Blay who died at the age of eighty eight recently.

A man wering a lifeboat guernsey jumper

RNLI/Karen Cox

Ron Blay

A familiar face around the Harbour, he was well respected not only for his thirty three years with the RNLI but also as the Skipper of the Ramsgate dredger ‘Ramsgate’.

He and his twin brother Bill, who was also volunteer RNLI crew, were part of the fishing fleet setting sail from Ramsgate owning first the Welcome Messenger and then the Jonnie S II.

Ron joined the RNLI in 1959, a time when the wooden lifeboat was very different to today’s modern lifeboats. When Ron’s first lifeboat the Watson class Michael and Lily Davis was built in 1953 it didn’t have a wheel house with the crew mainly exposed to the elements and the kettle was heated on a methylated spirits burner to make a hot drink. Thankfully a wheel house was added in later years.

Radar was first installed in 1963 and it was not until 1970 when very high frequency (VHP) radio-telephony was fitted as standard on lifeboats. The full length yellow oilskins worn by the crew would also be very different from today’s foul weather clothing, with the one piece rubber dry suit not being introduced until 1977.

However the essential role of a lifeboat crew has not changed, they are there to save lives at sea, and Ron was involved in his share of rescues with Ramsgate’s lifeboat credited with saving over 560 lives in his thirty three years with them.

Here are details of just a couple of those rescues that Ron was involved in. The first was the rescue of four crew from the yacht Lungta on the night of 11-12 October 1968 when the boat was grounded on the Ramsgate Harbour bar in very rough seas and a strong south westerly gale. The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum was given to the Coxswain Tom Cooper with certificates issued to the crew of the Michael and Lily Davis.

Then on 26 December 1985 Ron was part of the crew that rescued the French fishing vessel Gloire A Marie II aground at the entrance to the River Stour. The crew of the Ralph and Joy Swann a Waveney lifeboat, towed the boat and her seven crew into deep water during a north easterly hurricane with winds of 128mph. For this rescue the Coxswain Ron Cannon received a Silver medal and the Maud Smith Award for the bravest act of lifesaving in 1985.

This rescue lead to all the crew being invited to the Savoy Hotel in London to receive an award for Best Lifesaving Feat of the year from Silk Cut cigarettes when famous news presenter Jan Leeming made the presentation.

Another time in January 1990 when Ron was skippering the dredger he spotted a flotation suit in the water. Upon investigation they discovered an unconscious fisherman who had been in the icy water for two and a half hours so they took him onboard, warned him up as hyperthermia was setting in and brought him back to Ramsgate where he was placed in the care of an ambulance crew. The lifeboat was launched whist Ron took the dredger back out to sea as they had been told that a second fisherman was still in the water. It transpired that the twenty foot fishing boat had capsized when the pair tried to get the anchor in as the boat went stern to the tide and the rope snarled on the propellor. This caused the seawater to flood in capsizing the boat without any chance to send a Mayday signal. Sadly the second fisherman was not wearing any floatation equipment and subsequently drowned.

Coxswain Ian Cannon said, ‘Being part of the RNLI is like being part of a large family and the crew of Ramsgate RNLI will miss Ron deeply and send their condolences to his children Iain, Alison and Caron and also to his twin brother Bill. ‘

Karen Cox Lifeboat Press Officer Tel 07779848431 Email [email protected]

Julie Rainey RNLI Regional Media Manager South East Tel 07827358256 Email [email protected]

Agroup of people being presented an award

RNLI/Karen Cox

Left to Right Alan Bray,John Cheesman,Nigel Stevens, Jan Leeming (TV presenter) Derick Pegland Ron Cannon,Ray Noble, Mike Petts,Ron Blay,Geof Grieve (Hon sec)

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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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.