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Generation game: RNLI tradition continuing for Fraserburgh family

The Sutherlands have served Fraserburgh RNLI for decades.
The Sutherlands have served Fraserburgh RNLI for decades.

Christmas is a time for relaxing, enjoying a meal or perhaps even catching a movie – unless you are the Sutherlands from Fraserburgh.

Like most families across the north-east, Declan, dad David and uncle Vic will be ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice.

The trio are all volunteer crew members at Fraserburgh RNLI, with their family being part of the organisation for three generations.

Having joined the crew when the Broch’s lifeboat station reopened in 1978, Declan’s grandfather and great uncle, Albert and Victor, began what has become a family tradition.

Family’s commitment to RNLI

Both retired in 2016 at the age of 70 after serving as sea-going crew and launch authorities.

They passed their commitment to saving lives through the generations through Vic, the crew’s coxswain-mechanic, and second coxswain David.

Now Declan, 22, who joined the crew on his 17th birthday, is celebrating becoming a qualified lifeboat mechanic.

“There was never really a question of whether I would join the crew,” he said.

“I just took it as certain that I would.

“Even before I could join up as seagoing crew, I was always helping out at open days and other fundraisers. We’ve all grown up with it.”

Three generations of the Sutherland family have served in the RNLI.

Over the years the Sutherlands have had their fair share of festive shouts, being paged to rescue everything from fishing boats to pets.

Reflecting on one Christmas Day, David said: “I’d just got all my smart gear on, ready to start our Christmas when the pager went.

“So it was down to the station, dressed to the nines, and then quickly into our yellows and out on the shout.

“We were paged to help someone’s dog who’d got into difficulty during its Christmas Day walk.

“Luckily when the dog saw us coming, he started heading back in and with us keeping an eye out and following behind, he made it back to some very relieved owners.”

Crews under pressure at Christmas

Because of their commitment, the Sutherlands, like thousands of other RNLI volunteers across the UK, will potentially be sacrificing valuable time with their own families this Christmas to help others.

This year the charity is running a campaign named Save Every One with the aim of ending the loss of life at sea.

“There’s a lot of pressure on crews at this time of year,” said Vic.

“Keeping those pagers on means they are sacrificing their own relaxation and time with families.

“We always try to switch about Christmas and New Year shifts, make sure people can take a break, it’s a lot of pressure on crews but it is fully accepted.

“It is a really heart-warming feeling when crew tells you they are available over Christmas, it means a lot.”

Fraserburgh lifeboat sails into the eye of the storm to rescue small fishing boat