The St Abbs volunteers battling to keep a lifeboat station in their village took their fight to the RNLI’s headquarters this week.
A delegation comprising crew committee member Euan Gibson together with helmsmen Paul Crowe and David Wilson travelled from Berwickshire to Poole in Dorset on Monday .
There they delivered their petition calling for the RNLI to retain a lifeboat station in St Abbs, which has been signed by over 13,500 people in the last few months.
Speaking to the BBC at the beginning of a long day of travelling, Euan Gibson said of the plans to remove the St Abbs boat and operate out of Eyemouth: “Geographically two and a half miles doesn’t sound much but when you’re going across the North Sea into the face of a northerly gale it’s a heck of a long way. We believe quite simply that the move will cost lives.
“This is also one of the cheapest stations to run with the kind of boat we run. It costs about £30,000 a year to run. We also have fantastic fundraising which produces about £10,000 locally, which for a small community is astonishing.
“We’ve also had great support from people who donate to the RNLI who say that when they pay in to the RNLI it is to keep lifeboat stations open, not to see them getting shut.
“Since the RNLI made their announcement we have saved three or four lives and been out eight or nine times.
“One life should have been enough”.
The three were met at the RNLI’s Poole headquarters by George Rawlinson, operations director, who said: “The RNLI recognises and respects the time and effort that has gone into preparing and presenting this petition along with the depth of feeling concerning the decision to withdraw the lifeboat from St Abbs.
“However, while we understand that it’s disappointing for those involved in St Abbs lifeboat station, the difficult decision taken by the RNLI’s trustees to withdraw the lifeboat was unanimous. The charity is committed to putting another lifeboat at Eyemouth to cover St Abbs, which is only two nautical miles away and this has already been done.
“The crew and everyone involved at St Abbs have proved themselves to be committed and courageous in their service to the RNLI in the 104 years that the station has helped save lives at sea and the RNLI is very grateful to them and the local and wider community that has supported them during their proud history.”
Euan Gibson said of the meeting: “Mr Rawlinson accepted the concerns, and promised he would discuss these issues with others in the institution.
“It was a frank and open meeting lasting just over an hour.”
During this summer’s campaign to retain the lifeboat, support has come from 46 MPs, the British and Scottish Sub Aqua Clubs and the National Trust for Scotland.
The issue has also touched a nerve with many members of the public who disagree with the RNLI decision to close the station on September 8.
Mandy Smith was among those who took to Facebook to voice her frustration, writing: “Appalling that regardless of public opinion there is such an indignant stance on the #stabbslifeboat shame on the RNLI they do such a tremendous job and can’t afford to lose the public generosity they enjoy right now.”
Euan Gibson, on the morning after delivering the petition, reiterated that the fight would go on until “the doors are locked”.
“We would just like to say a massive thank you,” he added, “to everyone, from Berwickshire and from far and wide as well, who has helped us.”