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Seven Scarborough RNLI crew attended Westminster Abbey for RNLI 200th

Lifeboats News Release

On Monday 4 March 2024, seven members of Scarborough RNLI attended the Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey, London. This was for the 200th anniversary of the RNLI.

Laura Lyth, Scarborough RNLI and Kay Heslop, Cullercoats RNLI. Laura is holding up the front cover of the RNLI Service of Thanksgiving Order of Service.

RNLI/Laura Lyth

Laura Lyth, Scarborough RNLI and Kay Heslop, Cullercoats RNLI pre-service selfie!

The RNLI is a world class rescue operation powered by volunteers and as a charity it is funded by kind donations of supporters.

The RNLI marked its 200th anniversary of saving lives at sea, commemorating the One Crew that has made its core mission possible for two centuries with a Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey. It celebrated the elite lifesaving organisation and the 146,000 lives saved, whilst aiming to inspire new volunteers, donors and supporters for the next 200 years.

This once in a lifetime occasion was attended by representatives from across all of the RNLI and supporters including crew members from all 238 lifeboat stations and 240 lifeguarded beaches around the UK and Ireland.

Scarborough RNLI had seven representatives attend the service: one lifeboat crew, one shore crew, four from the Scarborough Ladies Lifeboat Guild and the station's Lifeboat Press Officer (who are all volunteers for Scarborough RNLI).

Scarborough RNLI's volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer, Laura Lyth provided an account of her day:

‘As I am also a North and East region volunteer Water Safety Lead Facilitator, I spent the day with my counterpart who is from Cullercoats RNLI. As soon as we arrived outside Westminster Abbey at 9:15am, the atmosphere was happy and full of celebration.

'Representatives from across the RNLI were getting along as thought we had known each other for a lifetime, swapping stories of where we were from, our roles within the RNLI and what it meant to be attending this prestigious service. It made me chuckle that all this was conducted in a very British orderly queue.'

For a time, Laura spoke with William Rogerson, Lifeboat Treasurer and Chaplin, Trearddur Bay RNLI, Anglesey. Upon sharing she was from Scarborough RNLI, he smiled and complemented the station, commenting that his last visit to Scarborough RNLI was in 2019.

He continued with sharing that a few years before that, he took part in 'The Dash'. This was an RNLI fundraising event where he was in a van with his son and daughter (who were on the crew at Trearddur Bay), visiting as many lifeboat stations in 48 hours as they could, including Scarborough RNLI. He stated that it was 'great fun' and that he 'always enjoys visiting Scarborough RNLI.'

Laura added: 'It was a lovely moment to share, discovering my station had left such a positive impression on a fellow RNLI volunteer. It emphasised the meaning of being One Crew, and that it is not limited by the boundaries of our home station, the ethos of One Crew applies throughout the whole charity.'

Upon entering Westminster Abbey, the magnitude of the experience became apparent. Everyone was at the Abbey, having travelled from all corners of the United Kingdom and Ireland, gathered in the capital’s cathedral that is cemented in the heart of our nation’s history.

For one day, the congregation was celebrating the RNLI’s heritage together whilst thanking those that went before them for their service and sacrifice.

The service began at the same time that the RNLI’s founding papers were signed back in 1824.

Laura continued: 'I couldn’t help but think about William Hilary and the other 30 plus people who put their names to a fledgling National Service that would save lives at sea. I wondered if they ever considered the incredible impact their actions would have on our Maritime nation and beyond.

'They laid the foundations for a charity that today designs and builds its own lifeboats and runs domestic and international water safety programmes with a single goal to save lives at sea; taking their mission far beyond the shores of their home nation. Just like the sea, their legacy has no boundaries and has lasted the test of time.’

The service was conducted by The Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle KCVO MBE, Dean of Westminster, with The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby GCVO, Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England and Metropolitan delivering the address.

The service concluded with the Duke of Kent, President of the RNLI signing the RNLI’s 200th Pledge Scroll which was also signed by The Dean of Westminster and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

When reflecting with other volunteers from Cullercoats RNLI who spent the day with Laura, they all agreed that the service was incredibly eloquent whilst humbling, whilst also joyous and at times amusing too. When it was time to leave, there was a general consensus within the congregation that the atmosphere was inspirational and uplifting.

It was clear to see that every person there had encountered a highly treasured, very special, once in a lifetime experience that will never be forgotten and reiterated what a fantastic institution the RNLI is.

Laura shared a final thought about the day, highlighting that her regional water safety counterpart and Lifeboat Operations Manager, from Cullercoats RNLI, Kay Heslop, summed it up perfectly just as they departed to go home:

‘What an experience! Here’s to the next 200 years’.

The attendees from Scarborough RNLI would like to thank all those involved in planning and delivering the service. They are grateful for having the privilege to attend such a remarkable occasion.

Notes to Editor:

RNLI media contacts

For more information please telephone Laura Lyth, RNLI volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer on: 01723 360520 or [email protected]

A miniture figurine of the RNLI Memorial statue. It is a metal depiction of a person in a small vessel reaching out to save someone struggling in the water. A black base with three wavy metal lines going around the base represent the sea and the words 'with courage nothing is impossible are located above the three wavy lines at the top of the black base.

RNLI/Laura Lyth

With courage nothing is impossible: a miniature of the RNLI Memorial statue
Scarborough RNLI volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer, Laura Lyth stood infront of RNLB Robert and Catherine Steen 13-47.

RNLI/Kay Heslop

Scarborough RNLI volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer, Laura Lyth
Inside Westminster Abbey: the congregation walking through the Quire (the choir stalls) as they leave after the service. .

RNLI/Laura Lyth

Inside Westminster Abbey: walking through the Quire.
The transcript of the Vote of Thanks from the RNLI CEO, Mark Dowie from the last page of the order of service.

RNLI/Laura Lyth

Vote of Thanks from the RNLI CEO, Mark Dowie

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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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.