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5,000 miles and two babies born on board: The eventful job of lifeboat volunteer Donald

Donald Matheson
Donald Matheson

After more than 5,000 miles on rescues – including two babies born on board – a lifeboat stalwart has called it a day.

This weekend, Oban Lifeboat bids a fond farewell to volunteer crew and deputy mechanic Donald Matheson, as his time afloat comes to an end.

During 15 years of volunteering, he has attended 308 call outs, travelled 5,192 miles and spent more than 500 hours on board the lifeboat, during launches alone.

Donald, known as DM, first joined Oban lifeboat as a volunteer crew member in 2005. His love for the sea drew him to the RNLI and he was encouraged to join by friend Ronnie MacKillop, who was the station’s full time coxswain at the time.

By 2010 was a deputy mechanic.

Outside the RNLI, DM works alongside his brother Neil as the store supervisor of furnishers Mathesons, their family run business. But, as a volunteer lifeboat crew member, DM has continuously dropped everything at the sound of his pager to help those in need.

He said: “A big thanks to all of the bosses who allow their staff to down tools and go out on shouts at a moments notice.”

Although the main aim of the RNLI remains to save lives at sea, Oban lifeboat has also been present at the birth of new lives at sea. Often called upon to carry out a ‘medivac’, transferring those that require medical care from the islands to the mainland, the lifeboat has transported expecting mothers to Oban on a number of occasions.

Four babies have been born onboard Oban lifeboat over the years and DM has been present at two of those.

He recalled: “Assisting at the birth of two babies has to be the highlight of my time as a volunteer crew member.”

Asked what he will miss most, DM said: “I’ll miss the camaraderie and team spirit that is so special and vital to what we do. It’s been a very humbling experience and I feel honoured to have been a part of it.

“I want to thank the RNLI for the excellent training. I also want to thank my wife Ann, my support vessel and all of the partners of crew members. Their support and encouragement is invaluable to the crew.”

‘His place within our lifeboat family remains’

Fellow crew member and deputy coxswain Finlo Cottier said: “He will be missed on the boat and at the station. Totally dependable as a crew member, deputy mechanic and assistant midwife. Unflappable.”

Not only has DM served as a dedicated volunteer crew member and deputy mechanic, but he has also acquired the role of ‘chef’ within the station; catering for many social events and celebrations over the years. And, he has inspired new volunteer crew members to join too.

A spokesman for the station said: ”His presence onboard the lifeboat will be missed, but his place within our lifeboat family remains and we hope to see him carry on his, involvement with the station in a different capacity.”

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