Eighteen years ago, Rachel Catto was just a few days away from giving birth to her second child.
With no maternity unit on the Isle of Mull where she lived, the plan was to be taken to Oban or further afield to Paisley to have her baby.
But little Emma had different plans when she came 10 days early – and made a surprise appearance in the middle of Loch Linnhe while a lifeboat crew transported her mother to the mainland.
Emma, from Fionnphort, holds an incredibly special honour of being one of just four babies born to Mull mothers during transfers from Craignure to Oban.
To mark her recent 18th birthday, the crew of Oban lifeboat celebrated the occasion by presenting her with a brass ship’s bell engraved with her name – a longstanding RNLI tradition.
RNLI Oban lifeboat baby rings bell on 18th birthday
Earlier this week, Emma and her parents Rachel and Glenn visited the Oban RNLI station where the family took a second trip on the lifeboat with a short trip to Loch Linnhe, where baby was born.
“I was a bit nervous coming here but it’s very exciting,” said Emma.
“I’m really glad to be able to come on board the boat. I’ve seen it often when I was coming across to school on the ferry, but always from a distance.”
Emma was born shortly before 2am on October 6, 2005.
An Oban midwife had joined the lifeboat crew before they set sail for Craignure.
On their return journey the midwife realised Emma was not going to wait.
Emma’s mother Rachel says her memories are of feeling she was in safe hands.
“My recollection is of feeling totally looked after,” she said.
“The crew and the midwife knew what they were doing, I just had to rely on everybody else.
“We were just trying to get to Oban – we never thought Emma would be born halfway across on Loch Linnhe.”
Donald Matheson was one of the crew on board that night.
He presented Emma with her bell and a photograph of the lifeboat on which she was born, the Mora Edith Macdonald.
“Everything happened very quickly,” he remembered.
“The midwife was checking Rachel and she said we need to stop right now, and a short time later Emma was born.
“Emma’s father Glenn had his hands full looking after Emma’s older sister (Abbie) so I was holding Rachel’s hand and acting as a sort of second dad. It was a lovely moment for all of us on the crew that night.”
‘Emma was 10 days early’
Dad Glenn remembers being rather distracted looking after two-year-old Abbie.
“Abbie was on my knee and one of the crew had handed her the wee soft rabbit toy that travels on the lifeboat,” he said.
“We were sitting in the radio operator’s seat. I spent the whole time trying to keep her hands down because she kept wanting to press the buttons on all the consoles in front of us.
Glenn added: “Emma was 10 days early.
“She caught everyone by surprise, but we were well looked after and it’s lovely to be back on the boat again 18 years on.”