MSPs salute coxswain Coxy, retiring after 38 years of saving lives at sea

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Campbeltown lifeboat coxswain David Cox is preparing for life without a pager ahead of his retirement after 38 years’ service to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

The lifeboat station stalwart, known to many as Coxy, joined the crew aged just 17 when asked to by Arthur Gillies, former managing director at Wyvex Media.

After 30 years of full-time service, 54 year-old David worked his final shift on Wednesday November 24. His long career has now been marked by MSPs in Holyrood.

David described his greatest challenge in his role as working alongside a variety of volunteers.

‘There are so many personalities and attitudes and it can be quite challenging to keep the equilibrium and dynamic at the station,’ he said, adding: ‘I have four children, three grandchildren and, at times, it feels like 28 children at the lifeboat station!’

When asked about his most memorable call-outs, David said: ‘There have been so many but the ones where people lost their lives will never leave me.

‘The guy who was going to cross the Atlantic on a boat no bigger than a bath tub set off to fan-fare and three hours later the ‘maroons’ went off and we rescued him off Peninver.

‘And I can’t forget the young man who went missing on the surfboard and survived 32 hours at sea.’

David added: ‘People rarely see or can picture what happens after the lifeboat leaves the pier. For the crew, it’s the unknown – it could be 3am on a winter’s morning, southerly gale of wind, huge seas and zero visibility.

‘It’s not for everyone, but the knowledge we are going to try and help someone in difficulty at sea drives us.

‘Members of emergency services rarely blow their own trumpets because a good outcome one day could be a tragedy the next.

‘What we do get when we return is a ‘good job, guys’ no matter the outcome because we know we have done everything we could.

‘I will miss being ‘The Boss’, the banter, my wife Kareen standing at the bottom of the stairs on an early morning shout with my car keys and the door open as I fumble down trying to put my socks on,’ David said, ‘and I will miss leading a team of outstanding people with whom I am proud and honoured to have served.

‘People have shown me respect, commitment and loyalty and it has been an incredible privilege to have been part of that team and organisation.’

David added: ‘I wish all the best to my successor, Ruaridh McAulay. I am sure he will have the support of the whole crew.’

The veteran lifeboatman’s 38-year-long service was marked in the Scottish Parliament by a motion submitted by Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron.

Mr Cameron said: ‘The RNLI is an integral part of our coastal communities for whom the welfare and safety of our seafarers is so important.

‘However the RNLI could hardly function without the long-term commitment of people like David.’

The motion reads: ‘That the Parliament congratulates David Cox who, after 38-years’ service, is stepping down from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI); notes that David joined as a crewman of the Campbeltown life boat, at the age of just 17; recognises the enormous contribution that he and his colleagues in the RNLI make to saving lives at sea, often in very hazardous conditions; and wishes David a long and happy retirement.’