Continuity can be key to a good team, and May 1 2023 saw that in action as Stornoway RNLI Branch Chair John J Maclennan stepped down following 53 years of service to the island lifeboat and station.
Stornoway RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager (LOM) John Macdonald took over the Chair position, and Deputy Launch Authority (DLA) Captain Don Smith took post of LOM at Stornoway RNLI.
A former volunteer crew member and 2nd Coxswain, Captain Don Smith first joined Stornoway RNLI in 1997, following in the footsteps of his late father, George Finlay Smith, a volunteer crew member for 15 years.
Don left the lifeboat crew in 2010, but returned to station ten years later to take on the role of Deputy Launch Authority. Now he has been ‘passed the LOM pager’ by John MacDonald – meaning it’s down to Don to say if Stornoway RNLI launch.
“Having been on the crew myself, I’m aware of the conditions the crew could encounter. I’ve got full confidence in the coxswain, mechanic and crew,” said Don.
“Our current vessel, the ‘Tom Sanderson’ is a powerful state-of-the-art boat that is ideally suited to our station.”
John MacDonald now totals 35 years-service to Stornoway RNLI. A volunteer crew member for 25 years, from 1988 to 2013, John took over as Lifeboat Operations Manager on May 1 2013 – ten years to the day when he left post to move to chair the Stornoway RNLI Branch.
“It might be a bit ironic that the changes all happened on May 1st, ‘Mayday’ being symbolic in seafaring and rescue,” John said.
“The 35 years I’ve spent with Stornoway RNLI have gone in the blink of an eye and I’ve enjoyed every minute. It’s been rewarding, particularly when a difficult service has had a satisfactory outcome.”
He continued: “I’ve enjoyed that past ten years as LOM, it’s not been without its challenges, in particular Covid. I’m pleased the say that the lifeboat never had to go off station during that period, however we did lose a social side to our work and had to cancel our Open Days.
“It’s a lot easier to send the lifeboat out when you’ve got full confidence, not only in the boat, but with the crew as well.
“Both the boat and the crew had my full confidence, and there was never a second thought about asking them to launch. I leave the post with the station in a happy and healthy position and in Don’s very capable hands.”
John added: “From a personal point of view, it’s great to have the continuity within the station and to continue to volunteer for Stornoway RNLI.
“And I’d like to say to the young people of the town, why not take up this month’s King’s challenge of volunteering, the opportunity to contribute something to the island they’re living and working in, particularly those based in town, whether that be to volunteer on our crew or with our fundraisers. Without the volunteers, its impossible to run the service.”
The UK Monarchy has also featured strongly in Stornoway RNLI news recently as former crew, Deputy Launching Authority, and Chair of Stornoway RNLI Branch, John J Maclennan, travelled to London to receive his MBE awarded in Her late Majesty the Queen’s 2022 Birthday Honours List. The Investiture took place in Windsor Castle on 23 May 2023 and was carried out by HRH The Princess Royal.
Although John has stepped down as Chair of Stornoway RNLI Branch, he remains a serving member of the RNLI Scottish Council; his service to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution now totalling over half a century.
John joined Stornoway RNLI in 1971 and served as volunteer crew for 25 years, during which time Stornoway RNLI lifeboat and crew saved 122 lives.
From crew John moved to Deputy Launch Authority and then onto Branch Chair and his continuity of service to Stornoway RNLI has seen him support and champion the island lifeboat throughout his life – including marking his 70th Birthday with a 38-mile cycle in aid of the RNLI. Hoping to raise £500, his efforts brought in £19,500 for the charity!
Stepping down as Chair of Stornoway RNLI Branch, John said: “I have derived much pleasure and satisfaction from my involvement with the RNLI, Stornoway Branch. The award I received at Windsor is every bit as much for the whole Stornoway Team as it is for me.
“We are incredibly fortunate to have a totally dedicated Coxswain, Engineer and Volunteer Crew on the Operational side of the Station and an equally committed Guild and Fundraisers on the ‘shore side’. It has been my great privilege to have had an involvement over the years and I wish all of the Team continued success.”