Donate now

Workington RNLI stalwart stands down after 35 years

Lifeboats News Release

Workington RNLI Coxswain John Stobbart has stepped down from his role on station

Man in RNLI gear - yellow jacket and red lifejacket - in front of sea

RNLI/Mark Regan

John Stobbart
John has been honoured throughout his career and was awarded the British Empire Medal in 2021 for his contribution to the charity which aims to save lives at sea. He was accorded the Thanks of the Institution inscribed on vellum for the rescue of the three-strong crew and the fishing vessel Siskin in the early hours of December 13 2000. The disabled fishing vessel was located and towed back to Workington in atrocious weather conditions, heavy seas and force 11 winds.

In 2012, John and divisional maintenance manager Andrew Philip Rodgers were accorded the Thanks of the Institution inscribed on vellum in recognition of their leadership, seamanship, courage and initiative when the lifeboat saved the fishing vessel George Lou-N on December 7, 2011.

The fishing vessel had mechanical problems and was being battered against Whitehaven's North Pier in force 10 winds and a three-metre swell. There was a severely injured man on board. Despite the severe conditions, the fishing vessel was safely brought through a narrow entrance and into the inner harbour without any damage being sustained.

He has received numerous letters of commendation from the RNLI for difficult callouts. But he's notoriously difficult to pin down - or take any praise.
He says modestly:

'It's very much a team effort. The RNLI is all about working together and working as one. I may be the coxswain of the all-weather lifeboat, but without every single member of the crew doing their bit, we wouldn't be able to go out to sea.'

He acts a mentor to younger crew members and out at sea, who listen to what he says. The RNLI has changed as an organisation over the years and John has weathered the storm. He says:

'When I first joined, we had a Watson class lifeboat, a double ended timber construction with a pair of Gardner engines. It was a great old boat with a maximum speed of eight knots on a good day.'

Fast forward with numerous lifeboats over the proceeding years to the current state-of-the- art Shannon class lifeboat housed at Workington, with its glass fibre composite and carbon fibre construction and two 650hp Scania Engines.
It was brought to Workington with the help of a community fundraising campaign.

John adds:

'It's capable of a maximum speed of 26 knots with amazing manoeuvrability but also economically viable with a 50-year lifespan. The Watson and the Shannon classes are light years apart as lifeboats go and what a pleasure to have been part of that development with the RNLI and the Workington station.

'But the lifeboats are only the machine behind these are the people the crew the shore crew the management group and the fundraisers all of which play a part in making the RNLI the amazing organisation it really is.'

John joined in 1987 after being invited to 'have a go' by the then-coxswain Albert Brown. John’s father had fishing boats and when not with his dad, he would go to sea with the likes of Father Shot and Jock Bell on their boats out of Harrington gaining valuable experience that helped the progression to the lifeboat service.

He says:

'I have been into boats since I was a kid, once I had joined the lifeboat at Workington it soon became very much part of my life. The lifeboats, the people, the whole experience - it's had hard times and sad times but mostly it's been a great life experience and pleasure to be involved and will certainly be a miss.'

His connection with Workington RNLI is still strong and he will continue in an operational role.

Tim Chittenden, Lifeboat Operations Manager, says:

'John has been an integral part of Workington RNLI for a long time and has dedicated himself to the charity. Workington RNLI relies on its volunteers and John is a shining example.'

John adds: 'The lifeboat will always be a part of my life and if I can continue to make a contribution I will do so.'

Group of people standing on harbourside

RNLI/Mark Regan

John Stobbart with RNLI fundraisers
John Stobbart in RNLI gear standing in front of lifeboat

RNLI/Mark Regan

John Stobbart

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.