Donate now

Ann Cleeves book launch very nearly scuppered by a lifeboat call out

Lifeboats News Release

Best-selling author, Ann Cleeves' book 'The Raging Storm' is about a lifeboat callout. Her launch of the paperback in Ilfracombe was very nearly halted by a real-life lifeboat callout

Mike Pinn

Ilfracombe's all-weather lifeboat, the Barry & Peggy High Foundation setting off on the shout
As part of Ilfracombe RNLI's celebration weekend for the 200th anniversary, best-selling author of 'Vera' and 'The Long Call', Ann Cleeves, came to the Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe to launch the paperback of her latest crime thriller 'The Raging Storm', set in North Devon.

The book features a lifeboat callout and is dedicated to RNLI Ilfracombe. For the launch event, Ann had requested two members of the Ilfracombe lifeboat crew to join her on stage to talk about real-life rescues on the North Devon coast. Ann's own husband was saved from a desperate situation by their local lifeboat crew some 40 years ago which is why the RNLI is a cause so close to Ann's heart.

But Ann's book launch so very nearly did not go to plan. Gillian Cole and Stuart Carpenter were the two crew members who were to join Ann on stage to talk about the lifeboat volunteering that they do. Just before the book launch, they were both at the lifeboat station, putting on their yellows in readiness for taking the stage. Suddenly, their pagers sounded, alerting all crew that the lifeboat was needed. A yacht had been seen in some difficulties near Lynmouth and the Coastguard had had asked for urgent assistance.

Gillian and Stuart had a tense few moments waiting to see how many of Ilfracombe's volunteer crew would get to the station in time. If enough crew could not get there, Stuart and Gillian would have had to leave Ann Cleeves in the lurch. "To be honest," Gillian admits, there was a moment when I thought I would rather go out on the lifeboat than face standing on the stage to talk in front of all those people!"

Fortunately, enough volunteers were able to get to the station in good time so that all-weather lifeboat, the Barry and Peggy High Foundation, could be launched and go to the rescue of the yacht. Gillian and Stu were able to join Ann at her book launch as planned.

While Stuart was talking to the sell-out crowd at the Landmark, his pager went off once more. Fortunately, he was able to reassure the audience that this was an alert to say that the lifeboat was coming back to the Harbour, having safely towed the stricken yacht to safety, and it was not another shout.

The other major event of the celebration weekend involved people, including lifeboat crew, their families and many locals, standing in the pouring rain on Capstone Hill spelling out 'RNLI 200'.

It was a very wet Saturday afternoon in Ilfracombe but hundreds of people came out to mark the 200 year birthday of the RNLI. The Parks Team had very generously mown 'RNLI 200' in the grass on Capstone Hill and people climbed up to stand in the letters, in a very traditional Ilfracombe celebration. The town's residents stood in the word 'Peace' on Capstone after the Second World War and more recently, Ilfracombe marked the late Queen's Jubilee and the King's Coronation in a similar fashion.

The lifeboat crews, each wearing their yellows, were all there with their families. Many of the crowd wore yellow too in celebration of our lifesavers. Jo Bolton, Chair of Ilfracombe's Lifeboat Management Group said "It was a really wonderful occasion, with so many people coming out to show their appreciation of the RNLI even though the weather really was against us. The yellow of the people of Ilfracombe on Capstone Hill, brightened up the wettest of days!"

For further information about this release, please contact Amy Caldwell, Regional Communications Lead [email protected] 01752854450
or the Press Office on 01202336789

RNLI/Gudrun Limbrick

Stuart Carpenter and Gillian Cole with Ann Cleeves after the Launch

RNLI/Gudrun Limbrick

Ann Cleeves with Gillian Cole and Stuart Carpenter, members of RNLI Ilfacombe's lifeboat crew

RNLI/Gudrun Limbrick

Ann Cleeves signing books for fans after the launch

RNLI/Rob Edwards

The stricken lifeboat being towed to safety by the lifeboat

Sam Walls

People spelling out RNLI 200 on Capstone Hill as part of the 200 year anniversary celebrations

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.