An island lifeboat station is marking 30 years of saving lives at sea, with two of its original crew still among the volunteer team.
In its three decades of service, Portree RNLI has launched its lifeboat to those in need 520 times, helping 462 people and saving 18 lives.
Hamish Corrigall and John Nicolson were among the original team when the station was established in 1991 and progressed to their current roles of coxswain and mechanic respectively.
Mr Corrigall is the fourth coxswain to serve in Portree, having held the position since 2014. The previous 18 years he spent as second coxswain. Mr Nicolson, known as Clanky, became the station mechanic in 1999 where he has worked full-time ever since.
Looking back on their 30 years with the RNLI, the pair said: “A lot has changed in terms of technology and paperwork, but the primary focus remains – to save lives – and we are proud to be a part of that.”
They said the spirit of the volunteers who have helped contribute to lifesaving in Portree has been key, and they have cherished the opportunity to make friends as well as a difference.
They said: “Being part of the crew is like being part of an extended family, you have to trust your crew with your life and we have a really tight-knit crew here.
“The nature of our roles mean that we’ve experienced the highs and unfortunately some lows, but we still take great pride in our contribution and hope to do so for as long as we can.”
Mr Corrigall’s family has a long association with the Skye station. His aunt Chrissie, uncle Tommy and father Alfie were instrumental in the opening of a lifeboat station on the island. As fishermen, Tommy and Alfie were regularly tasked by the UK Coastguard to attend vessels before the days of the lifeboat.
A RNLI base in Portree was discussed in 1989 when it was decided it should open early in 1991 for a 12 month operational evaluation, with the long-term aim of establishing a permanent all-weather lifeboat station.
It opened on March 9 1991 with the delivery of a relief Waveney class lifeboat. Later that year, Portree took charge of its own lifeboat, the Ralph and Joy Swann.
In those days, the crew was alerted to a ‘shout’ by rocket maroons launched from the pier. Nowadays, the volunteers are alerted to a call out by pagers.
In 1996, the aging Waveney was replaced by the more modern, and current serving, Trent class all-weather lifeboat, the Stanley Watson Barker.
At double the power and range of its predecessor, this vessel has helped the RNLI improve lifesaving efforts on the waters in and around Skye.
John Ellis, Portree Lifeboat operations manager, oversees the operation in Portree today. He said while 2020 was the most difficult yet in terms of public engagement, it was fantastic to see that community resilience was still there.
He said: “The station’s history speaks for itself, we are a community station founded by the community and proud to serve that community.
“I am honoured to be part of the team here and the 520 launches, 462 people helped and 18 lives saved are testimony to the crew both past and present. Here is to the next 30 years and beyond.”
To mark International Women’s Day this week, the Portree station highlighted three women currently on the crew – Ellie Macpherson, Eilidh Henderson and Chloe Urquhart.
In 2018, Ms Urquhart spent her first Christmas with an active RNLI pager when she became a full lifeboat volunteer when she turned 17.