Hundreds of people gathered at Leverburgh Pier yesterday (Wednesday) to welcome the arrival of their community’s first RNLI all-weather lifeboat.
As the Mersey class boat came into view at Leverburgh in the Sound of Harris there were cheers from the masses thronged on the village pier.
The sight of the boat Lifetime Care marked the culmination of an intense period of training for the RNLI volunteers in the village and now Leverburgh becomes the 46th RNLI lifeboat station in Scotland.
The station, currently housed in a temporary building, will be ready to take call outs on 11 May and yesterday (Wed 2 May) the lifeboat arrived for the first time in the village.
It had been brought up on road from the RNLI’s headquarters in Poole to Oban, and then the volunteer crew trained at sea with crews from Mallaig and Tobermory before arriving at Leverburgh at 3pm accompanied by a flotilla of vessels while a Coastguard helicopter flew overhead.
Children waved flags in sparkling Spring sunshine, there was entertainment and music, and a huge spread of food. A short ceremony was conducted after the boat moored at the pier.
Paul Jennings, the RNLI’s Divisional Inspector for Scotland, said, “A lifeboat is a tool for a specialist task in saving lives. It is the people and the community that brings the lifeboat to life and only through hard work, dedication and passion can that be achieved.
“Everyone in this community has pulled together in one direction and one purpose, to get this lifeboat here and to gain the knowledge of how to operate her.
“I have been constantly impressed by the dedication of this community to that purpose and it has been a pleasure and an honour to be part of it.’
Paul added: “A new lifeboat station is beginning here in Leverburgh and it is a journey into a rich history – please continue to volunteer for the RNLI as you will make a difference and save lives at sea.’
Leverburgh is a trial RNLI station and its effectiveness will be monitored by the charity for a minimum of 12 months. Villagers had raised concerns about the increase of marine traffic and the length of time required for a lifeboat to come from the RNLI’s stations at Barra or Stornoway to assist in an emergency.
The RNLI’s trustees agreed last November to set up a trial station and it is estimated that the Leverburgh volunteers could be called out up to 10 times a year to help people and vessels in distress.