St Abbs lifeboat station closes today

The St Abbs Lifeboat Station is to close today. Lifeboat crew members pictured here from left to right are Ian Wightman and Andrew Redden. Picture: Ian Rutherford/JP
The St Abbs Lifeboat Station is to close today. Lifeboat crew members pictured here from left to right are Ian Wightman and Andrew Redden. Picture: Ian Rutherford/JP

St Abbs lifeboat station is closing today after more than 100 years of service, but local volunteers want to keep it going independently.

The RNLI said St Abbs is to cease operating because there is no clear need to have two lifeboat stations so close together, with Eyemouth two nautical miles away.

Following a review it said it is confident the area can be covered safely and effectively from Eyemouth, with an inshore lifeboat placed alongside the all-weather lifeboat stationed there.

However, campaigners have launched a drive to set up an independent lifeboat in St Abbs.

The RNLI said St Abbs launches on average nine times a year, with around a third of the launches joint services with Eyemouth.

George Rawlinson, RNLI operations director, said: “Closing a lifeboat station is never an easy thing to do and this decision was made only after extensive research that considered the location of existing search and rescue assets and changing patterns of sea use.

“The review concluded that the area should be covered from one lifeboat station, rather than two stations so close together - St Abbs and Eyemouth are only two miles apart - and the coastline can be covered by placing an inshore lifeboat alongside the all-weather lifeboat already stationed at Eyemouth.

“We are very aware of the impact of such change on local communities and we do not take these decisions lightly. However, we have to be mindful of our responsibility to make best possible use of the donations on which the RNLI relies.

“I know that this is a sad day for the community of St Abbs and the lifeboat station - the lifeboat station has served the RNLI proudly for over a hundred years. I’d like to take the opportunity to thank them for their support, service and commitment to saving lives at sea.”

The St Abbs lifeboat will become part of the RNLI’s relief fleet before being retired when it reaches the end of its working life in a few months.

The RNLI said the boat’s crew would be free to join other lifeboat crews such as the one at Eyemouth if they live near enough to reach the station in time for callouts.

St Abbs Lifeboat Station campaigners said the station was opened in 1911 following heavy loss of life from the wreck of the Alfred Erlandsen on the Ebb Carr reef in 1907, and has saved more than 230 lives throughout its 104-year history.

Campaigners are considering detailed proposals for the future operation of the St Abbs Lifeboat Station independently of the RNLI.

Organiser Euan Gibson said: “St Abbs has a 104-year association with the RNLI and we are naturally sad that this should come to an end.

“However the fact remains that we believe there is a major divergence of views between ourselves and the RNLI over the safety issues which affect this coast.”

He added: “The decision by RNLI to replace St Abbs with a smaller and less capable boat at Eyemouth is, we believe, an error of judgment, based on flawed data.”

The RNLI said it works closely with independent lifeboats around the UK and would do so with St Abbs if the campaigners set up independently.