Celebrating 50 years of the Arran lifeboat

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A brief personal reflection by Miller Crawford

Arran lifeboat was born exactly 50 years ago on June 28, 1970.

When the RNLI decided to place a modern lifeboat back on Arran (Kildonan Station had gone many years before) it was to be based on solid foundations – whisky.

In Lamlash, a committee had been formed to assure the RNLI that Arran was capable of manning this service. At the Yacht Club and various houses the meetings always started with a bottle of Scotch being uncorked and the top thrown away. A favourite house for these meeting’s was Jimmy McGill’s as he also made a potent homebrew beer. Unfortunately, the mix of whisky and homebrew was so good that nobody could remember what had been discussed and another meeting had to be convened.

Eventually, a suitable crew was selected and readied. Meanwhile, as the boat was to be transported by road to other launch sites on the island, a crew was required from Brodick, and also Shiskine.

In Brodick, and using the same tried and tested tactics as at Lamlash, Fisher Gilmour used the Ormidale as a suitable base for the Brodick crew. Shiskine’s crew was assembled in the Kinloch under the watchful eye of Lawrence Crawford who swore to look after them!

As so, on the arrival of the RNLI D-class single engined boat on June 28. 1970, the Arran Station was born.

The crew onboard the Arran lifeboat

Over the last 50 years, almost everything has changed. From a lean-to shed, to a new station built on the site of Spiers Dick and Smith’s Coal Yard (donated by Anne Spiers), where it is still situated. The changes on the boat have been progressive as well. From the first single engine D-class to a twin engine C-class which the old boys will remember was a brute. Now the B-class Atlantic boats are the norms – with seats, by jove!

With the Atlantic’s arrival, the boat could no longer go by road and the Brodick and Shiskine crews petered out (but not forgotten). There are too many characters to mention, but I must mention Geoff Norris who for 40 years administered the station through all the changes.

I must commend today’s crews for their dedication as training takes up a good bit of time to learn all the procedures – not like the old days when the main decision was where to go for a fag!

Thank you Arran, for supporting us for 50 years, and please continue for another 50.

So I ask all crews past and present, shore helpers and fund raisers to raise a glass in a toast. To Arran Lifeboat – 50 years down, hopefully to another 50 years.

Slainte!