One family’s 100 years of saving lives at sea continues with Dunbar Lifeboat’s newest recruit

A family tradition of saving lives at sea stretching back over 100 years has continued with Jodi Fairbairn joining Dunbar RNLI lifeboat crew.

Jodi, 17, is the third member of the Fairbairn family on the Dunbar crew, following dad Gary, who is the lifeboat coxswain, and older brother Kieran, 20.

Her family’s connection to Dunbar lifeboat dates back to the 1900s, when her great-great-great grandfather Walter Fairbairn served as coxswain and was awarded a medal for bravery.

Jodi, an early years support worker, said: “I grew up around the lifeboat and know about the family history and I’m very proud to have joined the crew.


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“From a young age I watched as my dad responded to the pager going off and from my bedroom window I used to see the lifeboat head out on rescues.

“It’s a challenge learning all the skills needed to be a lifeboat volunteer but I am enjoying it so far.”

Jodi , who joined the crew as a probationer in December, recently experienced her first ‘shout’, an early morning call to help search for a potential missing person.

She said: “The pagers went off at 4.45am so it was a fright and I was nervous but it was amazing to get on my first shout.”


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At just 17, Jodi Fairbairn is trained, ready and willing to help save lives at sea with Dunbar's RNLI crew Pic: Nick Mailer

Fortunately, the individual on that occasion was located safe and well but for Gary, 52, it was an early test of his daughter’s character.

He said: “I did have a moment, when I saw her in the wheelhouse, and we still didn’t know what we were going to be facing. It could have been a very different outcome and I wondered how she was going to handle it.

“But, as with my son Kieran, I will treat her like any new volunteer.”


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He added: “It used to be that coxswains wouldn’t take more than one family member on a shout, particularly if it was a rough sea but the advances in safety, with regards the lifeboat and the equipment the volunteers have to keep them safe, mean we are 150% better protected than we were, say, 30 years ago. The training the crew gets now as well means they are better prepared for what they might face and the support is there if they do have a bad experience.

Saving lives is a family affair for Jodie Fairbairn with brother Kieran and RNLI coxswain dad Gary Pic: Nick Mailer

“I have to protect my crew, whether they are family or not.”

Jodi will serve on Dunbar station’s two lifeboats – the all-weather (ALB) and the D-class inshore (ILB) – the latest in a long and illustrious line of lifesavers. The Fairbairn name is so synonymous with saving lives at sea in Dunbar the town named a street in their honour.


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Gary was awarded the bronze medal – and his crew medal certificates – for bravery after the rescue in May 2009 of a couple from their stricken yacht in force 9 winds and 10m waves. And, in 1905, Walter Fairbairn was awarded the silver medal for helping save the lives of 40 men in a seagoing yacht that had run adrift. Gary’s dad, David, also served on the crew in the 1980s.

Jodi said: “I learned about my great-great-great grandfather when I was younger. It’s nice to be able to carry on the family tradition.”

On a shout: Gary Fairbairn at the helm of Dunbar's all-weather lifeboat
Jodi will be joining Gary and and brother Kieran on rescue shouts with the Dunbar RNLI crew Pic: Nick Mailer

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