Last summer, Scotland’s lifeboat volunteers launched 463 times, helped 376 people and saved 23 people - with one third of those launches happening in darkness.
For some crew members it has meant missing a child’s first birthday party or cutting short a sporting event. Whatever the occasion, the pager going off signals someone in trouble and the need to act fast.
The RNLI is telling these stories as part of its spring appeal, ‘Mayday,’ to highlight how their volunteers answer the call in all sorts of circumstances. Mayday is the international distress call for immediate help. The hope is that people can answer the lifeboat charity’s call to help fund their lifesaving work.
The below list of ‘pager moments’ brings a little comedy to the serious task of getting to the lifeboat station. The RNLI hopes it can put a smile on people’s faces and encourage people to make vital donations.
In one amusing scenario, three Oban lifeboat volunteers had just sat down with some drinks in a pub when their pagers sounded. Finlo was out of the door first, with David and Ian hot on his heels.
Outside and sitting in their van at the time, the police had seen Finlo dashing away from the premises and thought he was being chased by the pair. They drove on ahead of the trio and offered Finlo safe harbour in their van. The officers were then asked if he could be taken to the lifeboat station, before the other two jumped in seconds later thinking Finlo had arranged a lift with the police.
David recalls: “But the police hadn’t realised we were all crew and thought they’d made the easiest arrest ever. We had to convince them by showing our pagers and they promptly drove us to the station.”
He said when they arrived at the station, the duty coxswain said: “I don’t want to know, just get on the boat.”
Former North Berwick lifeboat helm, Ian Wilson and his wife were half way through a meal to celebrate their anniversary when his pager went off. He dashed off, not realising he had left her with no means to pay or a key to get back in the house.
Ian said: “I only realised when I got to the station and my wallet was in my pocket. I was away for about an hour and returned to the restaurant to find my wife talking to the waiting staff, who were fortunately very understanding.
“I’d describe her reaction as resigned – as it wasn’t the first time I’d run off and left her!”
Ian is now a deputy launch authority at Dunbar RNLI.
Given a pager can go off at any time of day or night, crew appearing at the station in unusual clothing is not a rarity, but when volunteer Jacqui turned up to Lerwick station for a shout her appearance definitely raised some eyebrows.
Shoeless and covered head to toe in dirt, she certainly had some explaining to do.
As captain of Shetland Women’s Rugby Team, Jacqui had just won a league cup match against Inverness when the pager went off and there was no time to get changed.
RNLI lifeboats launch in all weathers - but thanks to the antics of Iain in Portree it is fair to say they do so in all lathers...
Poor Iain Beaton was enjoying a trip to the hairdresser when his pager sounded the alarm. With a shocked hairdresser and a head full of shampoo, he sprinted for the door and spent the next few hours with foam inside his helmet.
It’s always going to be a rude awakening when a pager blares out in the middle of the night and interrupts sleep.
But spare a thought for one crew member from Shetland who responded to their pager in the small hours, turning up at the station only to discover theirs had malfunctioned. While there was no emergency, it did mean no one was needing urgent assistance.
In yet another case from Lerwick, one unlucky lifeboat volunteer raced down a steep hill to the station on his bicycle when he discovered the brakes had failed. He went into the lifeboat station walk but luckily he was okay and still able to attend the shout.
If these pager moments have given you a chuckle and you want to know how you can help the RNLI ‘answer the call,’ just head to https://rnli.org/mayday and find out how to make a donation or host a socially distanced sponsored event.