I have always supported the RNLI. Growing up, we typically camped somewhere near the coast and a young Simon would always be much happier once he’d visited at least one lifeboat station. I will honest to say that I don’t know where the fascination started – ironic for someone born and bred in Birmingham – but I certainly now know how much I respect those volunteers who drop everything and head out to sea because someone, somewhere is in trouble. They are truly ordinary people who do an extra-ordinary job.
My support has taken many forms and back in 2007 when in the Chair of my Mother Lodge, my chosen non-Masonic charity was the RNLI. In addition to the usual alms collections, I even had a sponsored shave and we were able to send a very respectable sum to the Tamar for Angle Appeal. This had been launched in 2006 with the aim of raising £1M towards the £2.7M cost of the new boat. The people of Birmingham, together many in Pembrokeshire, raised a fantastic sum but there was a shortfall of some £1.6M. This was donated by the Mark Benevolent Fund and, as a result, the MBF were given the honour of naming the new vessel. The summer of 2009 saw the MW Grand Master HRH Prince Michael of Kent make the long journey to Angle to name it ‘Mark Mason’ thus giving me my second connection with the station.
Consequently, it had been a long-held wish to make the pilgrimage to Angle, which can be found on one of the peninsulas on the SW corner of Wales. This became a reality when the whole of the family headed off to Nolton Haven, a beautiful spot right on the Pembroke coast a few miles south of St Davids. This meant that Angle was in range and I took great delight in planning a visit (as well as ones to St Davids and Tenby – see the earlier comment about keeping Simon happy!!).
Finally the big day arrived. I called the station as advised only to find that the boat was out on a shout! On asking the immortal (and stupid) question “how long will it be”, the response from Penny was simple – ‘how long’s a piece of string”! I decided to head off anyway and an hour later arrived in Angle before finding the station at Angle Point. Thankfully the boat was back and safely re-housed in the boathouse. I was welcomed by Adam and Paul, both full-time members of the crew, who kindly showed me round the boat. They needed to shut up shop and head home for some grub and kindly gave a lift in the station’s Land Rover (for those who know me – another treat!!) to the local hostelry. I restored myself to my personal comforts with a pint, a packet of crisps and a good book – I had a wee wait until the crew returned to the station for their regular Thursday night training session.
On my return, I was made most welcome by Julian Hammond, the Lifeboat Operations Manager, who introduced me to many of the crew. I was then privileged to watch a full launch close up (it would only have been better if I’d been on the Mark Mason herself – perhaps one day!?!) before being invited to stay behind for a cuppa. For that brief time I was made to feel part of the family and was then rewarded by watching them recover the boat – a fairly complicated procedure obviously made much easier from the regular training – with an excellent running commentary from Mark, one of the Deputy Launching Authorities. I eventually left the station at a little before 9pm to make the return journey back to my temporary home at Nolton Haven. I’d had a really special time, met some great characters and shared in their passion for what they do. I was still grinning from ear to ear when I got back to tell my family all about my day. I hope to be back there before too long!
Courtesy Bro.Simon Grove
W.Bro.Martin Grahame-Dunn – Webmaster