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RNLI lifesavers honoured by His Majesty The King in 200th anniversary year

Lifeboats News Release

Eight Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) volunteers and staff have been recognised for a combined 304 years of dedicated service to saving lives at sea in His Majesty The King’s Birthday Honours.


From left, top: Rebecca Allen, Angus Heddle, Neil Williamson, Dave Nicoll. From left, bottom: David Corben, Isabel Taylor, John Porter and Mark Dowie

Two lifeboat volunteers have been made Members of the British Empire (MBE), while four volunteers and one staff member have been honoured with a British Empire Medal (BEM) by His Majesty the King for their incredible contribution to the lifesaving charity.

Also recognised is the charity’s outgoing Chief Executive Mark Dowie, who has been made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) for his leadership during five years in charge of the RNLI as well as two years’ previous service as Lifeboat Operations Manager at Salcombe Lifeboat Station.

Janet Legrand OBE, Chair of the RNLI, said: ‘In our 200th anniversary year, it is especially pleasing to see both RNLI volunteers and staff from across four of our lifesaving regions recognised in The King’s Birthday Honours list.

‘Between them, these eight individuals have amassed a remarkable 304 years of service across a variety of roles from seagoing crew and water safety campaigner to museum curator and fundraising champion, all playing a vital part in saving lives at sea.

‘Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, our lifesavers have saved over 146,000 lives. This is only made possible by the selfless commitment of all our volunteers and staff across the UK and Ireland.

‘My congratulations and thanks go to all eight recipients and our thousands of other volunteers and staff who work tirelessly to deliver our essential lifesaving services as we strive to save every one.’

Former volunteer at Longhope Lifeboat Station, Angus Heddle, has been awarded an MBE for 75 years’ service.

Angus, whose dedication spans more than a third of the RNLI’s existence, was shore crew during the 1969 disaster when eight volunteers tragically died while trying to rescue the 2,600-ton steamship Irene in extremely stormy conditions.

Following retirement from operational duty, the 90-year-old volunteered at the Longhope Lifeboat Museum where he helped keep the legacies of those eight crew members alive.

He said: 'It was a complete surprise, I wasn't expecting this at all. The RNLI has been a huge part of my life for 75 years and I am immensely proud of everything the Longhope lifeboat community has achieved during this time.'

For 53 years of unwavering service, David Corben, Chair of the Lifeboat Management Group at Swanage Lifeboat Station, has also been made an MBE.

David joined the crew at Swanage aged 20. He served 35 years as operational crew, 14 years as launch authority and more recently started his current position overseeing all aspects of station life. During his time, Swanage Lifeboat Station has been credited with saving 566 lives.

He said: ‘I was both humbled and honoured that the RNLI should think I was worthy of such recognition. To me, I am just a small cog in such a vital organisation that has spent the last 200 years saving over 146,000 lives.

‘What also gives me such pride are the number of RNLI volunteers who are continuing to give their time and dedication throughout every lifeboat station in the UK and Ireland, to drop everything to go and help save the lives of complete strangers in what can be life threatening conditions.’

Receiving a BEM for 41 years of service is Isabel Taylor, Committee Member for the RNLI City of Manchester Fundraising Branch.

Isabel is the fifth generation of her family to join the RNLI, following her great-great-grandfather and great-grandfather who were coxswain and crew at Padstow Lifeboat Station, her grandmother who was a stalwart of Padstow’s fundraising branch and her father who was chairman of Penlee’s fundraising branch.

She started fundraising for the charity when she was just seven years old and since moving to Manchester 11 years ago, has connected inland communities to the sea by sharing stories and knowledge from her family’s RNLI heritage and has helped raise £650,000.

Isabel said: ‘It is not very often I am speechless but I am totally shocked, humbled and honoured to be recognised with this award. It is made even more special that it is in the RNLI’s 200th anniversary year.

‘There’s no way I could do what our brave crew do, so for me this is the next best thing. If I stand there long enough or look silly enough, then some amazing member of the public will become the lifesaver by putting money in the bucket so we can bring our crews and the people they go to rescue home safely.’

Neil Williamson has been recognised with a BEM for his outstanding work in just six years at the RNLI Whitby Lifeboat Museum.

Also launch authority at Whitby RNLI Lifeboat Station, Neil has transformed the lifeboat museum, which now welcomes school groups from across Yorkshire and further afield and serves as a great place to share vital water safety advice with the younger generation.

Neil said: ‘It is a great honour to receive this award, but it is the dedication and commitment of all the volunteers within the RNLI that inspires me each day. Without them the museum would not be what it is today, and we wouldn’t be able to continue without those that give up their time day after day.

‘There are people all around the country both volunteering or donating to the RNLI and I am very proud to play a part in that.’

John Porter has given 43 years of selfless service to the RNLI. Now visits officer, water safety advisor and fundraiser at Scarborough RNLI Lifeboat Station, John has been awarded a BEM.

Once a seagoing crew member, John has become an extremely successful fundraising volunteer, recruiting 139 new members to the RNLI in 2022 alone.

He said: ‘It was a great surprise and such an honour to have the work I’ve done over the years acknowledged like this.

‘I’m so proud to play my part in this wonderful organisation and this honour is a reflection on the incredible work of all the volunteers at Scarborough Lifeboat Station.’

Also receiving a BEM is David Nicoll, Coxswain at Falmouth Lifeboat Station and Fundraising and Partnerships Lead for the south west.

Since 1994, David has been involved with 820 launches, aided 864 people, and spent 1,082 hours at sea saving lives. In 2001, he joined the fundraising team as a staff member and has helped raise millions of pounds to save lives in the south west.

He said: ‘I was shocked to receive the award, but it’s an amazing honour to be recognised in this way by our Patron, His Majesty The King, especially during our 200th anniversary year.

‘It’s a team effort and I am indebted to my fellow volunteers both afloat and ashore who help ensure we are able to carry out our lifesaving work. I would also like to thank my family as without their unwavering support I could never have done what I have.’

Rebecca Allen has been awarded a BEM for 36 years’ service at Aberdeen Lifeboat Station.

Part of the fabric at the station, she was also chair of the Aberdeen and District Lifeboat Fundraising Branch for more than 21 years before assuming a committee role. Under her leadership, the branch raised more than £600k and she was instrumental in fundraising for a new Severn class lifeboat at the station.

She said: ‘I am deeply honoured to be included in His Majesty the King's Birthday Honours list, especially in this, the RNLI's 200th anniversary year.

‘It is only possible because I am lucky enough to be part of the amazing lifesaving team. The RNLI is a mixture of everything good: incredible courage, a desire to reach out and put others first, and the most wonderful kindness.’

On Mark Dowie, RNLI Chief Executive’s appointment as a CBE, Janet Legrand added: ‘The past five years have been some of the most turbulent in the RNLI’s 200-year history, and the RNLI has been so fortunate to have Mark at the helm to navigate these challenges.

‘From dealing with the impact of the pandemic, rising inflation, a significant increase in demand, and heightened public scrutiny, Mark has met these challenges head on. He leaves the RNLI in a solid position for the future, as we embark on our third century of lifesaving.’

When Mark leaves his role on Wednesday 26 June, he plans to return to volunteering for the charity at Salcombe RNLI’s shop.

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.