Pete Holder Retires: The End of an Era

A photo of Pete Holder from the RNLI

Pete Holder

On May 17th 2014 the head of Weston-super-Mare RNLI lifeboat station retires from the RNLI after 40 years’ service. Sadly, after that date he will no longer represent the RNLI nor have any function within it.

For many years the words ‘Pete Holder’ and ‘Weston RNLI’ have been synonymous. Unfortunately that all has to change. RNLI rules mean that Pete will no longer be at the head of Weston station. That role is being taken over by Pete’s choice of logical successor Mrs Charlotte (Charlie) Conroy.

Pete has been the stalwart who knew everyone and everyone knew. He has given 40 years to the RNLI and at over 70 he now has to stand down. He will now have more time to give to his family, to whom he is devoted, and to other community activities.

Peter Holder joined the RNLI in Weston in May 1974. He became a helmsman and then was appointed a Deputy Launching Authority in 1991. In 1995 he became the Lifeboat Operations Manager, the head of the station. He retires on May 17th 2014.

Married in 1970 to Jos, the current mayoress, they have one daughter Samantha with two grandchildren Chloe, 9, and Aran, 5.

In his early career Peter was a boatman skippering passengers and angling boats from Weston in the summer and fishing in the winter. He had his own boat Samantha C. In 1995 he took up work ashore joining Brunel Ford where he managed fleet logistics. He retired from that in 2008.

He joined King Alfred Lodge in 1998. A keen Mason he has among other roles been their Lodge Information Officer, a function he still performs.

The reason he has been involved in the RNLI is that he sees it as putting something back into the community he cares about. It is also very gratifying to have saved lives. During the visit of the Duke of Kent Peter will be receiving his Service Certificate, which marks his retirement from his position as Lifeboat Operations Manager. This will recognise his 40 years Operational service with the RNLI from crew, to Helmsman to Lifeboat Operations Manager, through what must have been the most challenging period for any lifeboat station, with the most testing and sometimes awful operating conditions, and sometimes a high demand for extremely strong yet careful leadership and management.

Nigel Jones, RNLI Divisional Operations Manager  for Wales South and Severn said; ‘Nothing is ever too much trouble for Pete, any time of day or night. Without his help and time we would have been very much struggling with aspects of the station at Weston. Even whilst he was dealing with some fairly significant medical issues, and in some pain and discomfort, Pete was always available to assist coastal staff with station matters. Where many would have given up long ago, Pete has remained a true stalwart for the station and for the RNLI in Weston. We simply would not be where we are without him. ‘

Reminiscing about the past Pete said; “When I started on the lifeboat nearly all the crew where commercial sailors, either from the pleasure boats which plied in Weston Bay or from the angling boats. Thus they all knew about the sea and boats. Today virtually none of the crew have a maritime career. This means that today the RNLI has to spend a great deal of time and money training crews. This is done on the station at the twice weekly training sessions, In the early days training was only once a month.

For example in my youth the children all used to play in the mud on the sea shore so they were well used to what was safe and what was not.

Joining the RNLI was really seen as a necessity in the early days whereas now people join out of enthusiasm and belief it is a good thing to do.

Another difference is that in the early days the only clothing worn by lifeboat crews was a thin waterproof jacket and trousers. Now the crews wear a woollen one piece undergarment, a weather and water proof one piece dry suit with a state of the art lifejacket and specially designed helmets.

All launches would have been down the slipway which extends out of the boathouse. These days we use tractors and carriages on a concrete slip.

The calls were sometimes to sailing vessels which carried cargo but had no engine. There were also a lot of small sailing dinghies but the leisure sailors tended to look after themselves. Nowadays many more leisure craft ask of help and the public are more likely to report anything they see as worrying on the sea.

There were no pagers in years gone bye. The Lifeboat crew was called by the firing of maroons, no longer allowed for health and safety reasons.

Having Birnbeck Pier open to the public made a huge difference. The public could walk into the boathouse and view the lifeboats. This gave the opportunity to sell souvenirs in the boathouse itself. It also gave rise to more public interaction, a feature which has returned since we moved to the temporary station at Knightstone.

Much has changed but today, as in the past, the RNLI volunteer crews are all dedicated to saving lives at sea.”

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