THE LIFE‑SAVERS

 

THANKS are due to 'The Story of the Lifeboat', 1958 edition, for the following account: Fear of Explosion ‑ "At 2.45 on the afternoon of April 3, 1949, the Pilot House at Irvine, Ayrshire, telex phoned to Troon three and a half miles to the south, that a vessel was ashore on the north side of the Irvine Bar. She was the S.S. Christina Dawn of Gloucester and was bound from Port Talbot to Irvine with a crew of nine and a cargo of carbide.

 

 

●The Lifeboat crew of 1954 pictured outside the station

 

"A strong south-south‑west wind was blowing a heavy sea. As the steamer was entering the harbour she was hit by a squall and blown right over a bank of stones on the north side of the channel.

 

"Her propeller and rudder were torn of off and she grounded in the shallower water on the other side of the bank. She was hosed and making water and her master decided to abandon her, expecting that the cargo of carbide would explode.

 

EXPLOSION

 

'Risk of Explosion - The Lifeboat, the Sir David Richmond of Glasgow, was launched at 3.10 and 20 minutes later reached the steamer. Her coxswain and crew knew on their departure that there was the risk of explosion.

 

"The coxswain anchored and veered the lifeboat down on her cable over the bank of stones, taking frequent soundings with a boat hook.

 

"Because of the shallow water and the steep seas, he was unable to go under the steamer's lee, but came alongside to windward. There the lifeboat was rising and falling considerably on the turbulent seas and it was only with the greatest difficulty that eight of the nine men jumped into her. The ninth fell into the sea but was hauled aboard.

 

'The lifeboat landed the men at Irvine at 4.15 and reached Troon again at five o'clock. Later, the steamer's cargo of carbide did in fact explode. It was a rescue carried out essentially by fine seamanship and the Institution accorded its thanks, inscribed on vellum to coxswain Arthur Pearce. "

 

He was to retire in 1956 after 36 meritorious years of service with the RNLI, with almost 16 as coxswain, high tribute being paid to him by Mr John R McLung, hon. secretary at that time and by a very broad spectrum of the sailing fraternity.

 

It was in 1823 that Lieut. Col Sir William Hilary B T launched his famous 'appeal to the nation for the formation of a, national institution for the preservation of lives and property from shipwreck'.

 

The Institution became a reality the following year.

 

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Lionel Lukin's 'unimmergible boat', the first craft ever to be designed specifically for saving human life at sea, although credit must also be given to William Wouldhave and Henry Greathead in respect of similar efforts.

 

The Troon Lifeboat Station has shown itself to be one of the vital cogs in the progress which has taken place throughout the years, each succeeding vessel making its own particular niche in the mark of time, such changes most certainly have been experienced and no doubt appreciated by the late William McAuslane who served in no less than four lifeboats: the Alexander Munnock the Charles Skirrow, the Busbie and the Sir David Richmond of Glasgow, during his 48 years with the RNLI.

 

EXCEPTIONAL

 

From 1955 until August of 1968, the James and Barbara Aitken ‑was the next to grace the waters of Troon and she was number six on the list, the produce of several endowments namely the legacies of Miss Agnes Aitchison of Dorking and Mrs Agnes Aitken of Lancashire, and an earlier gift from Mrs Aitken and her husband.

 

 

●A bouquet presentation at the launching of  'The James and Barbara Aitken' in 1955.

 

The sum available was £25,859 and her record was exceptional, being launched 91 times and saving 32 lives.

 

At the close of her career in 1968 the crew members of this craft were honoured before the handing over of the new lifeboat, being presented with Certificates of Service by Commander J. T. Lorimer, D.S.O., B.Sc., himself a man of no mean distinction, having served with the 'midget subs' of World War Two. As vice president of the RNLI he made the awards.

 

Coxswain William Young ­who had been a lifeboatman for 18 years (12 as coxswain) ‑ also received a pair of binoculars; mechanic Duncan McCallum had completed 22 years­ assistant mechanic William Stewart ‑ 16 years and bowman Ernest Gordon, 14 years.

 

It is almost certain that these gentlemen mentioned had sea water in their veins, particularly the coxswain.

 

The Connel Elizabeth Cargill, seventh on the roll was presented to the RNLI on October 5, 1968, by Mr R. K Robertson, a trustee of the W. A. Cargill Trust.

 

It was accepted on behalf of the RNLI by Brigadier J. W. H. Gow, vice president of the committee of management and chairman of the Glasgow Branch of the Institute.

 

The boat was received on behalf of the Troon branch by its secretary Mr T. M. Brown, Mrs T. C. Currie, president of the ladies lifeboat guild, proposed the vote of thanks.

 

The lifeboat was dedicated by the Rev Allan Young of Troon Parish Church and she was officially named by the granddaughter of the late Mrs Cargill, Mrs Connell Leggat.

 

This vessel was undoubtedly one of the moderns, of the Waveney Class, said to be the last of six built by a Lowestoft company to an American Coastguard design.

 

It may be wondered why she was numbered 007 the reason being that 001 was at no time used for active duty and was not registered as a lifeboat. The cost of the boat was £34,386.

 

The new boat was fitted with radar, echo sounder and three radio transmitters, plus receivers for communication with shore stations, other ships and aircraft. Her crew numbered five and there was accommodation for 35 survivors under cover.

 

All seats were fitted with safety belts to ensure the safety of the crew and survivors. For the same reason the cabins were fitted with foam rubber which had the added advantages of sound insulation and prevention of condensation.

 

The Connel was launched 178 times, with 68 lives saved.

 

MEDALS

 

In the entire history of the local lifeboat service only three medals have ever been presented by the RNLI, two silver and one bronze, mention having already been made of the first two.

 

In addition, there has been a number of Vellum Awards through the years all of which testify to courage and total dedication.

 

In 1971, the Centenary Vellum was awarded to the Troon station. Any coxswain will freely admit that he depends on his crew. Teamwork is the yardstick but his is the total responsibility and he is never given credit for error. It may seem unjust, but the coxswain must be infallible.

 

In 1980, the silver medal of the Institution was awarded to coxswain / mechanic Ian Johnson in recognition of his courage leadership and fine seamanship when the lifeboat, the Connel Elizabeth Cargill, on five separate occasions, went alongside the Dutch dredger "Holland 1", in danger of breaking her moorings off Irvine Harbour fairway beacon.

 

Her crew were rescued in a westerly storm and very high seas on September 12, 1980, In the same year, a framed letter of appreciation, signed by the chairman, the Duke of Atholl, was awarded to crew member, Roy Trewern, in recognition of his commendable action on December 2, 1980, when he volunteered to take a dinghy (carried by the lifeboat) to the Black Rocks, to assist two wildfowlers stranded by the flooding tide.

 

A letter from the director was sent to coxswain / mechanic Ian Johnson in recognition of the skilful manner in which the rescue was carried out.

 

In respect of the "Holland 1" rescues under the most hazardous conditions, medal service certificates were also awarded to the 2nd Coxswain, Thomas L. Devenny, to emergency mechanics Peter McClure and David Seaward and to crew members Robert Hannah and Roy W. A. Trewern.

 

APPALLING

 

Lifeboatmen as apart from the fact that they are volunteers are at all times ready to exchange leisure comfort and a warm bed for the most appalling conditions and a range of situations guaranteed to test their skill, strength and moral fibre. Distress calls may arrive at any time of the year, day or night and they are always answered.

 

Since the foundation of the RNLI in 1824, over 111,000 lives have been

 

Consider the football grounds al Ibrox and Parkhead full, and that is a lot of people

 

Next week: The final article in the Lifeboat series.

 

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