In 2024 the Royal National Lifeboat Institution celebrates its 200 hundred year anniversary. In the last two centuries the once wooden lifeboats with oars and sails have advanced with modern technology and now boast motor powered, all weather lifeboats, with state of the art technology and communications, that are able to be deployed at a moment’s notice to serve the needs of the maritime community.
Sir William Hillary, while living on the Isle of Man, was driven to action after witnessing wreck upon wreck wash up on the Douglas shoreline. In a pamphlet titled , A National Institution for the Preservation of Lives and Property from Shipwreck, Hillary petitioned the government for aid, and the foundation of a national organisation to minimise the loss of life and trade on the British coasts.
“For many years, and in various countries, the melancholy and fatal cases of shipwreck which I have witnessed, have excited a powerful interest in my mind for the situation of those who are exposed to this awful calamity; but the idea of the advantages which would result from the establishment of a national institution, for the preservation of human life from the perils of the sea”
The Lochinver Lifeboat station has been in operation since 1967. The new station sat alongside Mallaig, Barra, Stornoway, Campbelltown and Islay stations that lined the coast to supply the Minch with adequate lifeboat support for the increased economic and domestic traffic along the waterway.
The current boathouse ‘Penza’ is one of eight boathouses funded from a legacy from Mrs Eugenie Boucher, who left £4 million to the RNLI in 1991, for the improvement and replacing of boathouses across the UK
Image from: Aberdeen Press and Journal, 20 July 1967, p.2
The Lochinver crews have hurried to the assistance of hundreds of vessels since its formation nearly 60 years ago, such as fishing boats that have been stranded in rough weather, domestic yachts that have ran aground, recreational dinghies that have drifted out to open sea and evacuating sick passengers from large cruise liners.
The Julian and Margaret Leonard that is situated at Lochinver is a severn class vessel and is the largest class of the lifeboats in the RNLI fleet and was introduced to the UK in 1996. As an all-weather lifeboat, the Severn can take on the worst sea conditions and comes into her own on long offshore searches and rescues.
In 2016 the Lochinver lifeboat crews received special recognition from the UK government for its courage in towing the Norholm vessel to safety in impossibly difficult weather conditions in December 2014; further recognises that the crew battled gale force winds, 10 metre seas, thunder, lightning and hail to reach the Norholm and to bring it and its crew to safety. The crew consisting of Coxswain David MacAskill, who was awarded the RNLI’s Bronze Medal for Gallantry, Joseph Mackay, John Templeton, Robert Kinnaird, James MacAskill, Lachlan MacAskill and Stuart Gudgeon were named specifically for their bravery and diligence.
Recently, in January 2024 the Lord Lieutenant Major General Patrick Marriot, welcomed in the new year by appointing the decorated skipper of the Lochinver RNLI lifeboat, David MacAskill, the Deputy Lieutenant for Sutherland, following the retirement of Mr David Grant.
The RNLI is a vital lifeline for the coastal communities that rely on the sea for their livelihoods. They are on call 24 hours a 7 days a week, 365 days a year and they are in need of your support!!
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