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Volunteers Week: RNLI Historic Lifeboat Collection

05 June 2023

For Volunteers’ Week, one part of the dockyard that is both simultaneously connected yet different is the RNLI Historic Lifeboat Collection. This museum aims to educate both children and adults alike on the RNLI and what they do, as well as conserve and protect history.

When it comes to the volunteering itself and what you can do, it’s a mixture of cleaning the boats and preserving them.

More recently, both B.A.S.P and James Leath have had some fresh coats of paint to help restore them to their former glory. There is something for everyone with volunteering, whether you want to clean, paint or count up the donations – you’re able to dedicate as much or little time as you wish to, as there’s no obligations. The volunteers meet once a fortnight on a Saturday, typically starting around 9am, having a chat and a cup of tea or coffee.

There is a wonderful environment with the gallery and the volunteers. We all take breaks to make sure we’re fed and hydrated and just love to have a chat with each-other. There’s a variety of ages that volunteer and it does truly feel like a family group that all care for each other and enjoy being able to spend that time together doing something we all have a passion for.

Even if you don’t have much knowledge of the RNLI and its boats, you learn as you go, and everyone has something different that they bring to the gallery in terms of skills.

In terms of future projects, we not only want to keep all of our boats in good condition, we will be putting a focus into the restoration and preservation of Louisa Heartwell, a 38ft Liverpool class boat from the early 1900’s. She’s a boat with a lot of history! Not only is she the lifeboat of Henry Blogg, one of the most decorated lifeboatmen in the RNLI, but is also one of the last remaining pulling sailing Liverpool class lifeboats. She will be conserved, not only as a way of protecting history and showing how the technology involved with the boats and saving lives has changed, but also as a way of honouring the legacy of the crews she served with.

If you’re interested in reading the full article about why Louisa Heartwell is so important, the RNLI posted a blog: Louisa Heartwell Blog

Being able to volunteer for the lifeboat collection has been such a fantastic experience of learning and forming new friendships as well as enjoying the conservation and spreading the word of what the RNLI does and how it has developed over the years. We’re a group that’s always willing to have a chat and take on new volunteers as well.

With thanks to Laura Caldwell, RNLI Volunteer, for writing this blog.

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