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Glasgow Cathedral welcomes RNLI to celebrate 200 years of saving lives at sea

Lifeboats News Release

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) will mark 200 years of lifesaving at a service of thanksgiving at Glasgow Cathedral this Sunday (10 March). Volunteers from around Scotland will form a guard of honour and join the public service to mark the charity’s bicentenary.

RNLI lifeboats in Scotland have launched 45,853 times, saving 11,878 lives. That means over a quarter (25.9%) of all recues in Scotland have resulted in a life saved.

Founded in a London tavern on 4 March 1824 following an appeal from Sir William Hillary, who lived on the Isle of Man and witnessed many shipwrecks, the RNLI has continued saving lives at sea throughout the tests of its history, including tragic disasters, funding challenges and two World Wars.

Featuring in Sunday’s service of thanksgiving will be a new verse to the hymn Eternal Father Strong to Save, ‘For those in peril on the sea’, written by an RNLI volunteer and approved by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The verse first aired on television during a special episode of Songs of Praise on Sunday (3 March), to mark the 200th Anniversary of the RNLI. The verse could be heard in all its glory on Monday at Westminster Abbey, and one person who didn’t need the hymn sheet was the author and Anstruther volunteer crew member, Richard MacDonald.

Richard was inspired to write the verse after three members of the French lifeboat service, the Société Nationale de Sauvetage en Mer, were lost at sea in storm force conditions.

Richard said: ‘I was aware that many other services including the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, and the US Coastguard had added their own verse to the hymn, but there was none for the RNLI, so I composed a verse and sent it off to the CEO of the RNLI, Mark Dowie. I didn’t really expect to hear back, but I was contacted by his office to say the verse had resonated with him, and in turn he’d submitted it to the Archbishop of Canterbury for his seal of approval, which in due course he received.’

The service will take place at 11.00am at Glasgow Cathedral, with a guard of honour provided by dressed RNLI volunteers from 10.30am. A civic reception will follow, hosted by the Lord Provost of Glasgow.

O Lord, entrust their souls safekeep,
as lifeboats plough o’er oceans deep;
lend them your courage, strength and grace,
to those in peril, they must race:
Oh, hear us Lord, a sailor’s plea,
guide all who save lives out at sea!


Notes to Editors

  • To attend the service or interview RNLI personnel, please contact Martin Macnamara in advance of Sunday.
  • A video of Richard MacDonald is available for use here
  • Richard MacDonald and other RNLI personnel are available for interview. To arrange, please contact Martin Macnamara in advance of Sunday.
  • Details on the RNLI’s 200th anniversary can be found here

Media contacts

For further information contact Martin Macnamara, Regional Communications Lead - Scotland, on 07920 365929 or [email protected] or Natasha Bennett on 07826 900639 / [email protected] or Tom McGuire on [email protected] / 00 353 87 476 4436 or the RNLI press office on 01202 336789 / [email protected]

RNLI/Martin Macnamara

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.