Official opening of one of the RNLI’s most remote lifeboat stations

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The RNLI’s newest station in Scotland was officially opened today (Friday 3 May) in front of a packed crowd of islanders in the Hebrides.

Leverburgh is an all-weather lifeboat station with a Mersey class lifeboat situated on the Sound of Harris and within its first year of operation, as a trial station, it had 17 shouts.

Now the station has been upgraded to a permanent facility and a dedication service was held on Leverburgh Pier to mark the occasion. This is Scotland’s 46th station.

Leverburgh is a small island community but the villagers were out in force, joined by the children of Leverburgh and Shelibost Schools who took part in the festivities. The service was conducted by the lifeboat station’s chaplain, Rev. Ruairidh MacLean.

The guests included the RNLI’s chairman, Admiral Lord Boyce, and the RNLI’s Operations Director, Michael Vlasto.

Leverburgh RNLI Chairman, Neil Campbell, commented, ‘It is both an honour and a privilege for us all at Leverburgh to welcome two of the RNLI’s most senior members to our station.

‘We are indebted to the RNLI’s Board of Trustees,and the RNLI’s employees for their part in making our aspiration a reality.’

Lord Boyce told the guests, ‘We have made quite a journey to be here, but you have been on a much more challenging one.

‘It’s a journey that began with a request that the RNLI set up a lifeboat station. Many people have played a key part in making that vision a reality and it’s a pleasure to come along, to meet you face to face, and to congratulate you on becoming a permanent station.

‘Although Leverburgh is a new station, I know you are already part of the charity’s family – that big community where, if you are wearing an RNLI logo, you get a cup of tea whatever station you visit.’

He thanked all the volunteers on the crew and those working on other roles at the station, and the fundraisers, for their dedication and hard work.

Michael Vlasto will retire soon as the RNLI’s Operations Director after nearly 40 years with the charity and this was one of his last official functions on the coast.

He said that the case for opening a new station at Leverburgh had been compelling. It bridged a gap in cover between the flanking stations of Stornoway, Portree and Barra and the station was required to be on standby to assist an increase in marine traffic in hazardous waters.

‘But lifeboat stations don’t just get set up by magic – we can only meet the need if the people are in place.

‘Everyone in Leverburgh has shown a can-do attitude with the community working together, volunteers being recruited and people meeting the challengers of an initially temporary arrangement, and getting to grips with a trusty Mersey class boat,’ said Mr Vlasto.

The lifeboat is The Royal Thames. It costs on average £4,100 a week to run an RNLI all-weather lifeboat station.