Dunbar Lifeboat – A Brief History
In 1808 the first lifeboat was assigned to the Dunbar station.
In 1810, just 2 years later, the lifeboat was called into action to save the HMS Pallas. The frigate was commanded by Captain G.P. Monke and was wrecked near Dunbar on the 18th December 1810. In the darkness the pilot of the frigate mistook the light on a lime kiln at Broxmouth for the light that was kept burning on the Isle of May. On that night the Dunbar lifeboat successfully rescued 45 men in two trips and whilst attempting a third, was 'upset and drowned nearly all'.
In 1821 the lifeboat was sold and the Dunbar lifeboat station was closed. This therefore meant that the lives of the fishermen and sailors were left to fate. It was over 40 years late, in 1864; when a new lifeboat station was established by the RNLI and a boathouse was build costing £165. In current times the cost of the boathouse would be an estimated £16000.
In 1901 the existing boathouse was demolished and a new one was built costing £633. This would be an estimated £63000 in current times.
In 1905 Coxswain Walter Fairbairn successfully rescued six crew members from the steamship King JaJa. The steamship was travelling from Newcastle to Methil and got into difficulties when it ran into a violent gale near Dunbar. The vessel was forced ashore and the lifeboat went to her assistance. The King JaJa was able to get away under its own power but a short time later she was forced ashore a second time the lifeboat went to her assistance again.
In 1907 a second lifeboat station was opened at Skateraw, to the south of Dunbar, and was manned by members of the crew from Dunbar. The lifeboat which was station here was called the Sarah Kay.
On the 17th October 1907, in thick fog and rough seas, the German steamship SS Alfred Erlandsen struck rocks off the coast of St Abbs. The vessel was travelling from Riga, in Latvia, to Grangemouth with a cargo of timber for Kirkwood & Co, Glasgow. When it was discovered that the vessel was in danger the Eyemouth lifeboat was sent to assist but found no survivors. At the same time a signal had been sent to the Dunbar lifeboat station for
assistance and a team of 50 fishermen were taken to the Skateraw station. The men hauled the lifeboat across the beach and a crew of 15 manned the oars. The lifeboat fought through the heavy seas to the site of the wreckage but, like the Eyemouth lifeboat, had no luck in finding any survivors. When the lifeboat was signalled to return to the station the crew had been rowing for nearly 10 hours through the rough and violent seas.
In 1944 the lifeboat station at Skateraw was closed and the second lifeboat was withdrawn from Dunbar.
In 1968 an inshore lifeboat station was established in Dunbar and was equipped with a D class lifeboat. This would aid in many rescues closer to the shore which were to hazardous for the larger lifeboat.
In 1993 a berth was set up in the harbour at the Torness Power Station. This location was ideal as the harbour was fairly sheltered and it meant that when it was not possible to use the harbour entrance at Dunbar, due to low tide, the lifeboat was always available for any
At this time a Waveney class all weather lifeboat, the Thomas James King, arrived on station at Dunbar.
In 1995 the Waveney class lifeboat was withdrawn from service and was replaced by the Trent class lifeboat Sir Ronald Pechell Bt.
In 1999 a new D class inshore lifeboat, The Hastings, was put into service.
On the 22nd March 2008 disaster struck the Dunbar lifeboat. The lifeboat was moored at the Torness Harbour where it should have been relatively safe but the unexpected happened. During the night there were severe force 8 gales and very high seas which crashed down upon the lifeboat. Drastically one of the three anchors to which the Sir Ronald Pechell Bt was moored with failed and the vessel was driven onto the rocks. The crew from Dunbar and workers from Torness Power Station tried to save the vessel but to no avail. The lifeboat
suffered catastrophic damage and was beyond repair. The lifeboat was stripped of anything which could be salvaged and was tragically decommissioned and broken up.
On the 4th May 2008 the newly refurbished Trent class lifeboat, the John Neville Taylor, arrived on station in Dunbar.
On the 8th January 2009 a new D class inshore lifeboat, the Jimmy Miff, Arrived on station in Dunbar.
To date the two lifeboats which currently protect the sea around Dunbar are the Trent class lifeboat, John Neville Taylor, and the D class inshore lifeboat, Jimmy Miff. Over the last four years these two vessels have been involved in many rescues and have saved a number of lives. Without the dedication of the Dunbar Lifeboat Crews over the last 204 years hundreds of lives would have been lost and countless others dramatically changed forever.We owe a great deal to the dedication of these courageous and fearless men and women.