The Duke of Kent visits Fraserburgh to mark 55 years as RNLI President

The Duke of Kent with volunteers and staff at Fraserburgh Lifeboat Station (Photo: RNLI)The Duke of Kent with volunteers and staff at Fraserburgh Lifeboat Station (Photo: RNLI)
The Duke of Kent with volunteers and staff at Fraserburgh Lifeboat Station (Photo: RNLI)
His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent marked 55 years of service and commitment to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) with a visit to Fraserburgh Lifeboat Station.

President for over a quarter of the RNLI’s existence, this year marks 55 years’ service and unwavering commitment to the charity that saves lives at sea.

The Duke has visited stations around the UK and Ireland and has witnessed notable change through the years, from opening the first RNLI office in Poole in 1976, to attending the naming ceremony of an all-weather lifeboat named after His Royal Highness in 2005. However, it was the first RNLI engagement that has had a lasting memory.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In 1970, the year after succeeding both his father and mother as President, His Royal Highness travelled to Fraserburgh following a lifeboat disaster that rocked the town in which five of the crew aboard the RNLB Duchess of Kent perished at sea.

The Duke of Kent led the procession of an estimated 10,000 mourners, met with the families of those who had died, and attended the funeral to pay his own respects.

And when considering a fitting station visit to mark 55 years as President, Fraserburgh offered His Royal Highness an opportunity to reflect with poignancy and pride.

Earlier in the day, the RNLI proudly announced that His Majesty The King is to become the new Patron of the lifesaving charity. King Charles III succeeds Queen Elizabeth II and continues the tradition of patronage for the charity by the reigning monarch.

On arrival in Fraserburgh, The Duke of Kent presented the lifeboat station with the very first house flag of the new patronage, featuring The King’s Crown.

In this, the RNLI’s 200th year, the charity’s aim is to commemorate those who have gone before, celebrate the lives that have been saved, and inspire a future generation of lifesavers - themes very evident throughout the visit.

At the start of the visit, The Duke met with the families of James Buchan, John Stephen, James R.S. Buchan and William Hadden, who made the ultimate sacrifice onboard RNLB Duchess of Kent on 21 January 1970, and the family of the sole survivor John Jackson Buchan. Speaking to Pat Owen, widow of James Buchan, was a particularly poignant moment as The Duke recalled their first meeting at the funeral over 54 years ago.

His Royal Highness also met two of the former crew of RNLB Duchess of Kent who had served on the lifeboat alongside the five volunteers who tragically lost their lives in 1970. Albert Sutherland and Victor Sutherland Senior recalled their early years with the RNLI and the fateful morning of the lifeboat disaster. They went on to serve on RNLB City of Edinburgh as Coxswain and Second Coxswain, the lifeboat named by The Duke on His Royal Highness’ last visit to Fraserburgh in 1986.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In celebration of Fraserburgh’s lifesavers of today, The Duke presented three Chair Letters of Thanks to Coxswain Ethan Harris and crew members Stephen Brown and Shane Richardson, and a Chief Executive’s Commendation to Davy Sutherland, for the part they played in the rescue of four fishermen from a vessel that grounded and subsequently sank in October 2022.

Students from Fraserburgh Academy who completed a 6-week RNLI ‘Mini Crew’ Programme last summer were introduced to The Duke, as was student Lucy Sutherland after she raised £3,000 for the RNLI through the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative in Scotland, and her elder sisters Ailsa Sutherland, fundraiser, and Eilidh Sutherland, the youngest trainee crew member at the station.

A proud moment indeed for Lucy, Ailsa and Eilidh’s father and Fraserburgh Coxswain Mechanic, Vic Sutherland. Vic expressed his thanks to The Duke: ‘I would like to congratulate His Royal Highness on 55 years’ service to the RNLI and sincerely thank him for his continued support in Fraserburgh.

‘The Kent Family has a long-running history with the lifeboat station here in Fraserburgh. The Duchess of Kent named our lifeboat in 1954, with The Duke visiting in 1970 and 1986. It really is humbling to know that the fondness is felt both ways.’

There was a moving conclusion to the visit when His Royal Highness joined Pat Owen, the last surviving widow of the 1970 Fraserburgh lifeboat disaster, to lay a wreath at the foot of the remembrance statue, while pipers Billy Hepburn from the Turriff and District Pipeband and Lucy Sutherland played a lament.

Accompanying His Royal Highness in Fraserburgh was Chief Executive of the RNLI, Mark Dowie.

Speaking at the time, Mark said: "It was a very special day for the RNLI and the charity’s longstanding heritage with the Royal Family since our foundation in 1824.

“Fraserburgh was a fitting host for our President’s 55th anniversary visit, with so many personal connections between The Kent Family and the station.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“The Duke has provided unwavering support to the RNLI for 55 years, visiting almost all the lifeboat stations around the UK and Ireland, attending countless lifeboat naming and station opening events and meeting crew members, fundraisers, supporters and staff.

“Our President's warmth, generosity and understanding of our lifesaving work is incredibly valued by the charity and the time His Royal Highness spends with each volunteer is greatly appreciated by the Institution.

“We also welcomed the news of our new Patron, King Charles III this morning and there was an immense sense of pride across the Fraserburgh RNLI team as they became the first RNLI lifeboat station to fly our new house flag featuring The King’s Crown this afternoon.”

Related topics: