Celebrating women helping save lives at sea

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Oban RNLI is celebrating the vital work woman play in making sure the town’s lifeboat can keep launching.

Monday March 8 is International Women’s Day and the RNLI is using the special day to thank all of its hardworking and dedicated women helping save lives at sea – whether they are onboard as part of the crew or at home waiting for their loved ones to return
after helping those in jeopardy on the waves.

Last year Oban RNLI welcomed its third woman volunteer onboard the lifeboat as Jasmin Manning joined existing crew members Lawrie McMillan and Leonie Mead.

Originally from Oban, 28-year-old Jasmin is studying Marine Science at the Scottish Association of Marine Science, while working part time for Marks and Spencer in the

‘I spend a lot of time on or near the water and joining the lifeboat felt like a good way to develop my skills and help others,’ said Jasmin who also volunteers for the Marine Conservation Society, helping with beach cleans and education.

Although Jasmin’s crew training has been delayed due to Covid restrictions, she hopes to join the rest of the crew afloat soon.

‘I’m excited to get going when I can. I’m looking forward to learning lots and meeting the rest of the crew,’ she added.

Lawrie McMillan, 26, first joined the RNLI in 2013 as a volunteer onboard Stranraer’s inshore lifeboat, then joined Portpatrick lifeboat before moving to Oban and transferring to the town’s crew in 2019 – her partner is the lifeboat’s fulltime coxswain Ally C. She has attended 30 call outs, covering over 135 miles since then.

Leonie Mead, 30, started as a volunteer press officer for Oban lifeboat in 2014 then joined the crew three eyars later. She also double up with her day jon running her own graphic design business and being a sea kayak instructor. Her husband Andrew is also on the lifeboat crew.

‘It’s not always easy to juggle volunteering alongside work and other commitments, but I wouldn’t change it. I always know that when I step onboard the lifeboat, we’ll be working as a team and there’s huge satisfaction and a sense of achievement in knowing that we’ll have done our best to help someone else, when they needed it most.’ In 2020 Leonie spent nearly 60 hours on call outs, covering over 300 miles.

There are also many more women volunteers working behind the scenes, too including Peigi Robertson who has dedicated more than 50 years to the RNLI’s fundraising Oban branch  and has been  rewarded with a  gold medal for her continued commitment.

‘There’s the wives, partners and family members of our volunteer crew, too. They also
drop everything and change plans at a minutes notice when the pagers sound,’ said Leonie. One of them is Karen Scott whose husband Mark Scott has been a crew
member for nearly 20 years and is one of the deputy coxswains. Her son Andrew is the crew’s youngest member, joining at the age of 17 in 2014.

Karen, who is a nurse and has been helping roll out the town’s Covid vaccination programme,  said: ‘I worry about both of them when their pagers go off, sometimes going to sea in awful weather, but it was definitely different when Andrew joined. He’s my son and I do worry about him more than Mark; he’ll always be my baby.”
‘But, I know they all look after each other on the lifeboat and I’m very proud of them both. You get used to waiting for them to come home, but the worry never really goes away. I’ve also been abandoned on numerous occasions, usually with the shopping, when their pagers have gone off!’

Mark said: ‘Karen’s gone above and beyond over the last year with her work, too. Looking after families and working on the frontline as a community nurse. She’s my hero.’

Leonie added: ‘By sharing our stories and celebrating the women of our lifeboat station, we hope others will be inspired to join us.’


Caption: New recruit Jasmin Manning is Oban lifeboat’s third  woman volunteer crew member