Lifeboat bids farewell to ‘unflappable’ volunteer

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Oban’s lifeboat crew have said a fond farewell to volunteer Donald Matheson who is hanging up his yellow wellies after 15 years of saving lives at sea.

Tributes to Mr Matheson marking his retirement have been paid by other RNLI crew members who thanked him for his service onboard and onshore in the lifeboat station kitchen as chef.

After attending 308 call outs, travelling 5,192 miles and spending more than 500 hours on board the lifeboat on rescue shouts, Mr Matheson, known as ‘DM’, retired at the weekend.

Describing him as ‘unflappable’, DM has also taken on the role of midwife over the years, helping at the birth of two babies.

Helping deliver two babies onboard the lifeboat over the years has been among the highlights of Donald Matheson’s service, he says.

He first joined Oban lifeboat as a volunteer crew member in 2005 after his love of the sea drew him to the RNLI and he was encouraged to join by friend Ronnie MacKillop, the station’s full time coxswain at the time. By 2010, DM had passed out as a deputy mechanic.

While working as store supervisor at the family-run business Mathesons, DM was ever ready to drop everything at the sound of his pager to help those in need.

Although the main aim of the RNLI is to save lives at sea, Oban lifeboat has also been present at the birth of new lives at sea. As well as others needing transferred from islands to the mainland for medical reasons, expectant mums have been transported on the lifeboat on a number of occasions. Over the years four babies have been born onboard and DM has been present at two of the births.

‘Assisting at the birth of two babies has to be the highlight of my time as a volunteer crew member,’ said DM.

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.’

Fellow crew member and deputy coxswain Finlo Cottier added: ‘Donald 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 at the lifeboat station and has inspired new volunteer crew members to join too.

One of them was Kevin Lockhart who said: ‘DM was the person I first asked about getting on the crew and he encouraged me to go down to the station and enquire. Sad to hear he’s retiring, but cheers for everything; for the training, the tea and coffee and the chocolate on board.’

And fellow volunteer Gillies Pagan added: ‘Same as Kevin, it was DM I went to speak to when I was thinking of joining the crew. I thought to myself, if the folks on the crew are all like him, they must be a good bunch!’

‘We’d like to say thank you to DM, from all of us at Oban Lifeboat Station. 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.’

From this weekend, the RNLI’s pop-up Saturday shop in the run-up to Christmas will be stationed outside Sea Kayak Oban in Argyll Street from 10.30am to 4pm.