Weston-super-Mare RNLI enjoyed a royal visit today (Thursday 15 May) when The Duke of Kent met volunteer lifeboat crew at their station at Knightstone Harbour.
His Royal Highness, the President of the RNLI, was shown around the temporary facilities before moving on to an RNLI hosted reception at the Winter Gardens on the Royal Parade where he was introduced to more lifeboat crew members and fundraisers.
The Duke of Kent was joined in his visit by RNLI Chairman Charles Hunter-Pease, Colin Williams, RNLI Regional Operations Manager West and Nigel Jones, RNLI Divisional Operations Manager, Wales South and Severn.
During the visit, the D class inshore lifeboat and tractor were on display outside the station where HRH had the opportunity to meet the crew who were fundamental in establishing the temporary facilities here on the seafront promenade.
Before moving onto the reception, Peter Holder, Weston-super-Mare RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager accompanied the royal party in a stop at Prince Consort Gardens, where the Duke of Kent got a view from high ground of Birnbeck Island. In November after 131 years, the RNLI established its new temporary facilities at Knightstone Harbour due to the deteriorating condition of Birnbeck Pier and the buildings on the island.
Speaking at the reception, Charles Hunter-Pease, chairman of the RNLI praised all involved with Weston-super-Mare for forging on regardless of the challenges they faced: ‘Weston-super-Mare has proved to be the most stoic and patient of our lifeboat families with a rich history in the town dating back to 1882, when the first lifeboat was hung from davits on the pier. For the last 20 years, if not a great deal more, Weston has been the most challenging of sites for the operation of lifeboats. Numerous methods, all from the Birnbeck Island have been attempted, yet none have really stood the test of time. Throughout all of this turmoil the crew, fundraisers, supporters, volunteers and staff have forged on regardless, readily accepting the additional challenges and sometimes immensely harsh conditions.’
He said the construction of a new facility at Weston-super-Mare was a key priority for the RNLI: ‘I am fully aware of the tremendous efforts of many of you here today in establishing the temporary facilities at Knightstone. Without your help and determination we would not have been able to continue to provide a lifesaving service.’
More than 50 guests attended the reception where a history of the RNLI’s work was on display. Here, HRH made two presentations, the first to Peter Holder, in recognition of 40 years’ service with the charity and the second to Richard Spindler, Deputy Launching Authority, who received a long service badge with a 30 year bar. Richard will have spent 50 years volunteering for the RNLI in 2015.
The royal visit was the first event in an RNLI open day which was extended to children and families. Before leaving Weston-super-Mare, HRH was presented with a photograph of the station’s inshore D class and Atlantic 75 lifeboats which was signed by the crew. In return he signed the visitors’ book.