St Abbs will have it’s own independent lifeboat by 2016 thanks to the generosity of Scottish company Tunnock and Sons Ltd – of tea cakes and caramel wafers fame.
Boyd Tunnock was so impressed with the determination of the local community to replace the village’s inshore lifeboat after the RNLI closed the lifeboat station in September this year that after initially sending a cheque for £10,000 towards the £250,000 fundraising appeal he decided to go further and offer the £250,000.
“I got a letter from the appeal and I said to my secretary to send £10,000,” said Boyd Tunnock, of Tunnock and Sons Ltd. “Then I got a phone call last Friday from Euan Gibson, appeal organiser, to thank me for the kind donation.
“During the conversation I said if I was to offer you quarter of a million would you call it the Thomas Tunnock lifeboat. He said to give him half an hour and he came back to me and said it would be fine.”
Mr Tunnock hasn’t been to St Abbs yet, but intends to be there for the launch of the new lifeboat.
The former lifeboat crew hadn’t been able to bring themselves to visit the empty lifeboat station at St Abbs harbour since the lifeboat was removed - but all that changed this week and they met at the station on Monday to start planning for the future.
Alistair Crowe the lifeboat appeal chairman said: “This is a highly significant development and the emergence of Tunnocks as a major donor has unanimous support from the community of St Abbs. On behalf of the St Abbs Community I would like to express my sincere gratitude not only to Tunnocks, but also to all our other donors for their donations both big and small.
“We hoped to raise the money but to raise it in less than eight weeks is astonishing.”
“We look forward to becoming an operational lifeboat station at St Abbs again as soon as arrangements can be put in place, which will include a new purpose built boat.”
The public appeal will continue as they look to the future now in providing long-term financial support for St Abbs lifeboat station which will cost in the region of £20-30,000 a year to operate.
“The hard work doesn’t stop,” said Alistair.
If the RNLI had kept the St Abbs lifeboat station open they were due to replace the boat there with an Atlantic 85 and the plan now is for the community to get the best boat and equipment that their money can buy and also meet the strict Rescue Boat Code in place for independent rescue boats. This will mean that the Coastguard can officially call out the St Abbs crew in an emergency knowing that the crew, boat and equipment are all up to the job.
And as far as crew members are concerned there are no shortage of volunteers.
“We have had so many people come forward to do it,” added Alistair. “A lot of people who weren’t involved before now want to be involved.
“We are in good shape and very far from starting from scratch - we have some very experienced people on board.”
The St Abbs boat will join the 70+ other independent lifeboats operating around the UK coastline and the crew are going over to Port William in Dumfries at the weekend to tap into their 30+ years of experience.
John Lamont MSP, a trustee of the charity set up to run the lifeboat said: “This fantastically generous donation from Boyd Tunnock makes all the hard work of the local community worthwhile.
“This money will mean a lifeboat at St Abbs will now be back saving lives in the new year.
“It was a real blow when RNLI withdrew from the station, but the community has rallied behind raising funds to restore this live saving service. Further funding is needed to pay for the running costs, but I have no doubt people will continue to donate generously.”