RNLI Bicentenary — [Carolyn Harris in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:17 am on 26 March 2024.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Virginia Crosbie Virginia Crosbie Conservative, Ynys Môn 10:17, 26 March 2024

Bore da, Mrs Harris. It is a pleasure to speak under your chairmanship. I congratulate my hon. Friend Anthony Mangnall on securing this important debate on the bicentenary of the RNLI.

My island constituency of Yns Môn has seen lives lost at sea for centuries, and many of our lifeboat stations began life as private community initiatives in response to such events. Improvements in technology have now superseded those smaller lifeboat operations in communities like Penmon, Cemlyn, Rhoscolyn, Cemaes, Bull bay and Rhosneigr.

During the 19th and 20th centuries there were 13 RNLI lifeboats on Anglesey. There are now four lifeboat stations—two with all-weather lifeboats at Moelfre and Holyhead, and two with inshore boats at Trearddur and Beaumaris. Between them, those four stations have given over 500 years of service and their brave volunteers have been awarded more than 100 RNLI medals for gallantry. Those volunteers include the late Moelfre coxswain, Richard Evans BEM. Dick served for 50 years and was involved in the saving of over 250 lives. He is only one of five men to be awarded the RNLI gold medal twice—the highest accolade awarded by the institution and the equivalent of the Victoria Cross for bravery at sea.

Most recently in 2022 the crew of the Trearddur bay lifeboat received medals for the rescue of a female surfer during gale-force 9 winds on 20 May 2021. Helmsman Lee Duncan received a silver medal, with Dafydd Griffiths, Leigh McCann and Michael Doran being awarded bronze medals for a rescue in a 50 mph storm, described as

“one of the finest acts of selflessness and courage of recent times”.

Earlier this year in the Holyhead RNLI station, full-time coxswain Tony Price announced his retirement from the role, although he will continue as a volunteer. In his time Tony has dealt with significant incidents, including saving the Christopher Pearce lifeboat when the Holyhead marina was destroyed in Storm Emma. Tony comes from a family with a long history of volunteering for the RNLI.

Just last week, the strong ties between the lifeboats and our community were clearly demonstrated when the demolition of the old Anglesey Aluminium chimney raised more than £10,000 for the Holyhead RNLI. The 120 metre high chimney, which dominated the landscape for 50 years, has been cleared to make way for Stena’s Prosperity Parc, a key part of the new Anglesey freeport. In just seven days, more than 900 tickets were purchased in the prize draw to press the demolition button. All the proceeds have gone to the Holyhead RNLI in memory of local lifeboatman Iwan Williams, who sadly passed away last year. Geraint Williams, who was originally from Aberffraw, won the winning ticket.

Last year, Anglesey singing sensation Ren Gill visited Beaumaris lifeboat station after raising more than £15,000 for the local RNLI in recognition of its work searching for his best friend Joe, to whom he dedicated his album “Freckled Angels”. This year, to celebrate the bicentenary, Holyhead Lifeboat is proud to be handing the 200-year commemorative baton on to Cemaes bay harbourmaster Dafydd Williams aboard the 1907 rowing and sailing lifeboat the Charles Henry Ashley. Dafydd will then hand the baton over to the Moelfre crew. Then, on 20 April, the Beaumaris RNLI will host a celebration black tie event at Canolfan Beaumaris, with music from Seindorf Beaumaris Band and Suspects and food provided by Gate House Catering.

I will close by saying that the RNLI is part of our island’s DNA. From Graham Drinkwater, who laid the foundations for Trearddur bay lifeboat station, to its chairman, Jack Abbott, who was awarded a Royal Humane Society testimonial for using his skills to rescue and resuscitate a drowning man in 2001, just weeks after undergoing open heart surgery, there are too many heroic events to relate and too many past and present RNLI volunteers on Anglesey to name here. To people like Osian Roberts and Arwel Owen, who man the lifeboats, to Phil Hen, with his brilliant photos, and Shirley Rogerson, who tirelessly fundraises, diolch yn fawr to you all and those like you across the United Kingdom for the over 146,000 lives you have saved over the past 200 years.