The old Islay lifeboat Francis W Wotherspoon which was stationed here from 1959 to 1970 has returned for a vist to Port Askaig courtesy of her new owner and skipper Steve Street. She was on the island for a few days so that her old crew could pay a nostalgic visit and the current RNLI crew of the Helmut Schroder II could see what life used to be like. The Francis W Wotherspoon is a Watson Class 47 foot boat powered by two Gardner five cylinder engines. Steve found her in a very neglected state in Douglas Isle of Man, when the harbour authority were threatening to have her scrapped as she was posing a potential danger to shipping. Steve, who is a professional boatbuilder based in Douglas, bought her and started on a complete restoration to bring her back to her former glory, a process which is ongoing having started two years ago. She is now completely seaworthy, although the internal works still need to be done.
When Steve found the boat he contacted Islay McEachern, secretary of the Islay RNLI who was most surprised that she was still around. He, in turn, informed the rest of the RNLI community here who were very excited by the prospect of a restoration of their old boat and invited Steve up at the earliest opportunity. Continue reading....
During her period on station in Islay the lifeboat was called out on around 90 occasions and saved some sixty lives. Her crew were recognised on a number of different occasions including:
1959 A Bronze Medal was awarded to Coxswain James Gillies for rescuing four crew from the fishing vessel May in hurricane force winds.
1970 Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum were awarded to Second Coxswain M Mackay and Assistant Mechanic Archibald Campbell for rescuing two women and four children who were stranded on Churn Island. Framed Letters of Thanks were also sent to Coxswain D J McPhee and the remaining crew.
1973 A Bronze Medal was awarded to Acting Coxswain Malcolm Mackay for rescuing the three crew from the coaster Raylight on 25 December 1972.
A Bronze Medal was awarded to Acting Coxswain Malcolm Mackay for rescuing the Captain and his nine crew from the tanker Olga aground on Bhride Island.
The lifeboat was on service for 57 hours from 27 March to 30 March 1973.
This story was published with kind permission of the Ileach local newspaper.