RNLI 200 – thank you!

06th March 2024

Crews, lifeguards and representatives from RNLI teams across the country gathered at Westminster Abbey this week to mark their 200th anniversary.

Thank You: 200 years of the RNLI

Three RNLI lifeboats were brought to the abbey and put on display – the historic William Riley, an oar-powered boat built in 1909; a modern Shannon class boat; and a D class lifeboat first introduced into the fleet in 1963.

Thank You: 200 years of the RNLI

And a new verse was sung for the hymn Eternal Father Strong to Save written by RNLI crew member, Richard MacDonald, from Fife, after three members of the French lifeboat service were lost at sea in storm force conditions.

The Archbishop of Canterbury praised RNLI staff as “models for everyone” who “risk their lives for those who are not known to them”.

The ceremony was attended by the Duke of Kent, president of the RNLI, who signed the charity’s 200th pledge scroll, which was also signed by Archbishop Justin and the Dean of Westminster, the Very Revd David Hoyle.

RNLI chief executive Mark Dowie told the PA news agency:

“The service was an incredibly special way to mark 200 years of selfless commitment and to remember all that’s gone before, including the hundreds of RNLI lives lost over the years.”

He gave a vote of thanks during the service and said the organisation had “survived the test of time, including tragic losses, funding challenges, two World Wars and, more recently, a global pandemic”.

The charity’s lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved more than 144,000 lives since its formation in 1824.

William Dougan, a helmsman from the Stranraer lifeboat station in Scotland, told the PA news agency:

“Days like these make you very proud – I’ve served with the RNLI for 22 years and it’s been great to come together and see other crews today.”