Two centuries of life-saving in their hands

Boulmer Volunteer Rescue Service.'Claire Bowron, Finlay Bowron, Connor Hewistson and Callum Hewitson.
Boulmer Volunteer Rescue Service.'Claire Bowron, Finlay Bowron, Connor Hewistson and Callum Hewitson.

One of the UK’s last remaining independent lifeboats, based in north Northumberland, is facing dual threats to its future – lack of funds and a shortage of volunteers.

Boulmer lifeboat has a history stretching back two centuries, and has been run entirely independently by the Boulmer Volunteer Rescue Service (BVRS) since the 1960s.

Boulmer Volunteer Rescue Service.' Finlay Bowron

Boulmer Volunteer Rescue Service.' Finlay Bowron

But now there are fears that the station will struggle to cope in the future – both to cover its costs and to attract the volunteers that are its lifeblood.

“It’s got a long history, a very long history,” said crew chairman Finlay Bowron.

“We feel as though it’s down to us to keep it going – we’ve been running for so long.”

Around 10 volunteer crew work with Humber Coastguard to provide a weekend rescue service around the Boulmer area and about 15 others work to raise funds and maintain the social life of the station.

In 2006, BVRS members raised £35,000 to fund a brand new 30ft lifeboat.

But it costs around £8,500 a year just to keep the service running and, Mr Bowron says that finding both volunteers and funding can be a struggle.

“There’s not enough people in a little village the size of Boulmer to draw the crew from any more,” he said.

“If it breaks even, we’re lucky, if not, it runs at a slight loss, which is always a worry.

“But we will keep going.”

Volunteers feel a strong connection to the lifeboat station – some even holding their weddings there.

“It’s all done on a shoestring, but it does cost a lot to keep us going,” Mr Bowron said. “In this day and age, although we go for sponsorship from local businesses, they’ve got their own problems to look after.”

There has been a lifeboat service in Boulmer for two centuries. A Royal National Lifeboat station was established in 1825, and before that, a boat was provided privately by the Duke of Northumberland.

When the RNLI withdrew their service in 1967, people living in the village teamed up to rescue the station – and they have been going it alone ever since. Mr Bowron says that while there are still RNLI stations at Amble and Craster, the crew feels it is important that there is a lifeboat to watch over people using the Boulmer bay.

“A lot of windsurfers use Boulmer bay, jet skis, so although Amble could cover, that’s why we keep going,” he said.

To get involved, contact the Boulmer Lifeboat station on 01665 577683.