Celebrating and honouring the RNLI: Happy 200th birthday

26th April 2024

York Minster and Wakefield Cathedral are the latest cathedrals to celebrate the work of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) marking the charity’s 200th anniversary.

Celebrating and honouring the RNLI: Happy 200th birthday

Crews and supporters from the north and northeast attended a service in York Minster which was led by the Dean of York and included a procession and readings from volunteers and staff.

The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations around the UK and Ireland and has seasonal lifeguards on 240 beaches. It was founded on 4 March 1824 by Sir William Hillary and since that time, its volunteer crews and lifeguards have saved a total of 146,277 lives.

It continues to be funded by donations and legacies and relies on volunteers to undertake its work.

The Very Revd Dominic Barrington, Dean of York, said:

“The Minster and the RNLI share a common purpose: The saving of souls.”

“It is therefore a privilege to be able to honour the remarkable achievement of the RNLI in saving more than 146,000 people over its 200-year history.”

Ahead of the service he said he hoped communities would join in “celebrating all those people who do extraordinary things to keep our seas and inland waters safe today and inspire a new generation of lifesavers and supporters for tomorrow”.

Volunteers and staff participated in the service including Matt McNally, a volunteer from the Cleethorpes Lifeboat Station, who said it was a “wonderful opportunity to commemorate and reflect on the history of the RNLI as well as celebrating all that we do to save lives at sea”.

RNLI chief executive Mark Dowie said:

“For a charity to have survived 200 years based on the time and commitment of volunteers, and the sheer generosity of the public donating to fund it, is truly remarkable.

“As our crews and supporters in the North and North East mark this milestone of the RNLI at York Minster we remember the achievements and commitment of all those who have been part of the RNLI family over the past two centuries.”

Tickets are now on sale for a special concert in Wakefield Cathedral that will tell the 200-year-story of the RNLI through music and readings.

The concert on May 17 brings together singers from three choirs including Wakefield Cathedral Choir, Ensemble Pro Victoria and young musicians from Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, part of Wakefield Grammar School Foundation.

It is curated by concert producer and lecturer in music management at the University of Leeds, Silviu Cobeanu who has created a seascape made up of old and new maritime and choral music complemented with stories depicting selflessness and heroism on treacherous seas.

Silviu said: ‘Through song, music and performance, this concert aims to remember the RNLI’s remarkable history, celebrate the modern lifesaving service that keeps our coast and rivers safe today, and inspire a new generation of lifesavers and supporters.’

The programme includes interludes from RNLI lifeboat crew members including Jamie White, a descendant of the family of Northumberland’s sea rescue heroine Grace Darling.

Musical highlights will include Director of Music at Wakefield Cathedral James Bowstead conducting Wakefield Cathedral Choir’s performance of two songs composed by arrangers from ChoirCommunity, a marketplace of high quality and cost-effective songs and musical arrangements for choirs. These compositions have been donated to the RNLI as part of the Sing to Save Lives initiative and are free for other choirs to use in fundraising concerts.

The audience will also be treated to a unique and rousing medley of arrangements from an RNLI repository of songs, collected from old editions of 19th century editions of the Lifeboat Magazine by Ensemble Pro Victoria, led by director Toby Ward.

The event has been organised by the RNLI’s West Yorkshire Business Branch.

Volunteer branch member and RNLI Vice President Clive Rand said:

‘The concert is called ‘200 years and Counting,’ and as the RNLI enters its 200th year, we as a branch are counting on your support. We are calling on you to join us, to carry our lifesaving service into the future and help us achieve our mission to save every one.’

Tickets cost £25 and all monies raised will be shared equally between the cathedral and the RNLI.

RNLI Concert Wakefield Cathedral.7pm Friday May 17.

Doors open at 6.30pm. More here.

Photo credit – Choir in Wakefield Cathedral – RNLI