Islay RNLI Lifeboat Crew Honoured

Islay RNLI lifeboat crew were presented with awards for seamanship and outstanding teamwork by the RNLI on Thursday 12 June. The crew were being recognised for their role in saving seven lives during an 18-hour rescue in horrendous conditions, described by one of the 'strapped in' lifeboat crew members as 'like being tossed around in a washing machine on deep spin programme'. RNLI Chairman Sir Jock Slater presented Islay RNLI Coxswain David MacLellan (37) with Thanks of the Institution on 'Vellum' for his actions during the service on Friday 4 January 2008. In addition he presented six crew members from Islay with RNLI Vellum Service Certificates thanking them for their part in the rescue, which took place in testing weather conditions during the hours of darkness, saving the lives of seven people.

John Caldwell, Divisional Inspector for the RNLI in Scotland, says: 'In January the Islay lifeboat crew saved the lives of seven people from a stricken fishing vessel in very poor weather conditions. This was Coxswain MacLellan’s first service in such conditions since his appointment in October 2006. I am delighted that the RNLI has recognised their efforts that night. But it is also important for us to recognise the efforts of the hidden heroes who fundraise for the RNLI. It is both humbling and motivational when I hear how much they do in order to help the RNLI provide the best training and equipment for our crews.' Continue reading....Shortly after 8pm, the Islay allweather RNLI lifeboat, Helmut Schroder of Dunlossit II (Severn class), launched to go to the aid of an 18-metre fishing vessel, facing severe gale force weather on route. The Niamh Aine was taking on water 14 miles South West of the Skerryvore Lighthouse in six metre swells and breaking seas. Barra RNLI lifeboat and Rescue 177, a Royal Navy Sea King helicopter, were also tasked to the scene. Barra RNLI lifeboat was stood down after three hours. In the wild conditions the rescue helicopter was unable to transfer a pump and it was too dangerous to attempt to airlift the crew. Coxswain MacLellan decided to attempt a transfer of the lifeboat’s portable salvage pump to the Niamh Aine and if this was unsuccessful, that the crew should abandon her for a life-raft from where the lifeboat would rescue them. He then manoeuvered the lifeboat skillfully in strong gale force nine conditions to transfer the pump. Once it was established that the Niamh Aine was no longer in danger of sinking, he then made the decision to tow her and her crew to safety. After nearly 18 hours on service in horrendous conditions described by one of the 'strapped in' lifeboat crew members as 'like being tossed around in a washing machine on deep spin programme', the lifeboat crew finally reached safe waters with the Niamh Aine in tow. The 'Thanks of the Institution on Vellum' is the fourth highest RNLI award. Only twelve Vellums were presented to lifeboat crew members across the UK and Republic of Ireland for acts of gallantry or good seamanship during 2007.

Coxswain David MacLellan received the RNLI’s 'Thanks of the Institute on Vellum' for outstanding seamanship shown during the rescue of the stricken Irish fishing boat 'Niamh Aine' in treacherous weather and sea conditions 14 miles south west of Skerryvore Lighthouse on the evening of January 4 of this year.For their part in the 18 hour rescue operation the institute's 'Vellum Service Certificates' were presented to the 'Helmut S Schroder of Dunlossit II' mechanic David MacArthur, navigator Richard Cameron,senior deckhand Rondy Fletcher and crew members Cara MacEachern, Raymond Fletcher and Billy Cummings. These presentations were carried out by the RNLI’s chairman Sir Jock Slater who highly praised the island crew’s seamanship and outstanding team work. The presentations also brought plaudits from the Islay lifeboat chairman Captain Malcolm Anderson who described the honours bestowed on the coxswain and crew as 'well earned and richly deserved'.

This story was published with kind permission from the Ileach local newspaper.

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