Exactly one year after the state-of-the-art Shannon class lifeboat arrived at Exmouth lifeboat station, R and J Welburn was officially named by the charity’s Chairman on Saturday 9 May.
After the early morning rain had stopped and the Exmouth Shanty Men had entertained the crowds, the ceremony to name and dedicate RNLB R and J Welburn into the Institution began promptly at 11am.
The lifeboat had been funded by the generous legacy of Mrs Joan Welburn of Sidmouth. Joan’s late husband Raymond had been a distant relative of the Captain of the lifeboat at Spurn Point, which is today home of Humber RNLI. Captain Michael Hansley Welburn lost his life at sea, in an attempt to save others at the age of 37. A number of other significant donations and legacies had contributed to the state-of-the-art lifeboat and its equally impressive launching system. A proportion of the cost of this system, (£150,000) had been raised in the local community by an appeal organised by the Exmouth Lifeboat Fundraising Team.
Lifeboat Operations Manager, Kevin Riley MBE commented: “We were delighted to see so many supporters here today, especially our donors as we couldn’t go out to save lives without them. We welcomed relations and representatives from those who had left legacies and trusts, helping us to bring life-saving at sea into the 21st century, in Lyme Bay. Since our new boathouse went operational in November 2009, we have saved and rescued 391 people and some had travelled especially to join us today, to express their gratitude to our volunteer service.”
Niece of Joan Welburn, Annette Richardson was invited to hand over R and J Welburn to Charles Hunter-Pease OBE, Chairman of the RNLI; who in turn handed the lifeboat over to Chairman of the Exmouth Lifeboat Management Group, Tim Baker.
Exmouth RNLI Chaplain, James Hutchings led the 30 minute service with musical accompaniment by the Exmouth Town Centre Band. A bottle of champagne was popped open by Coxswain Steve Hockings-Thompson who was standing on the bow of R and J Welburn with five crew volunteers. The band played as the Shannon proceeded down the ramp to be launched for a brief display of her manoeuvrability in shallow water. The lifeboat landed on the sandy beach at 21 knots to the sound of the crowds’ cheers.
Chairman of the Institution, Charles Hunter-Pease commented: “If you want to celebrate the arrival of an all-weather lifeboat, which only happens every 25 years, then you should go to Exmouth where the volunteers show how it should be done. The ‘Shannon smile’ which I first saw a year ago, when the crew started training, is even broader here today. Their year’s training has ensured that all the crew are able to operate R and J Welburn safely, efficiently and speedily, as saving time means saving lives.”