A surprise party has been held to mark 40 years of life-saving service by Margate RNLI volunteer coxswain Trevor Lamb.
Trevor, who officially stood down on January 31, was also presented with gold cufflinks to mark four decades that have seen rescues from incidents including a fire on the Ramsgate – Dunkirk Sally Line cross channel ferry, Sally Star, in 1994.
When Trevor joined the RNLI in September 1977, the rest of the country was busy celebrating the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, but uppermost on the lifeboatman’s mind was a determination to help save lives at sea.
He said: “I actually married the coxswain’s daughter, so I was asked to join the crew by my father-in-law, Alf Manning.”
Trevor served for five years on the station’s inshore lifeboat before moving on to the all-weather lifeboat (ALB). He was appointed second coxswain of the ALB in 1986 and held that position until 2005, when he became coxswain.
He said: “My first experience was with the old traditional slipway-launched Watson class lifeboat on the pier, but following the collapse of the pier in 1978 we moved into our current location at the Rendezvous, first with another traditional lifeboat, the carriage launched Rother class Silver Jubilee, and then in 1987 with the modern fast Mersey class lifeboat Leonard Kent.”
Hundreds of rescues
During that time Trevor has been involved in hundreds of rescues and incidents, including the collision between the cruise ship Norwegian Dream and the container vessel Ever Decent in the English Channel in 1999 and a fire on the Ramsgate – Dunkirk Sally Line cross channel ferry, Sally Star, in 1994.
He said: “I believe we were out for more than 30 hours following the Ever Decent collision and if I remember rightly we saved around 37 people from the Sally Star which had caught fire.”
In fact Margate lifeboat crews saved more than 350 lives in the 40 years Trevor served at the station.
Marking 40 years of service
And after four decades of saving lives he admits not being on the crew has taken a bit of getting used to: “I keep feeling for my pager, I just can’t get out of the habit!”
To mark his 40 years of service Trevor was invited by the RNLI to a special event at the Guildhall in London last October and in June, he and Valerie attended a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace.
“‘It was a wonderful event and particularly for Valerie”’ he said.
“The women are left behind in the background, but they are the ones who have to deal with everything while we are away. They are the ones who are left at home, or at restaurants when our pagers go off’. The RNLI has always been in Valerie’s family ever since she was born.
“With her father being the coxswain she never got any holidays as a child, so the garden party was a great event for her.”
Like most RNLI volunteers Trevor has also had to juggle his time serving the RNLI with full-time work. Before joining the charity he worked as a Kent coal-miner for eight years, but after marrying Valerie became involved in the family’s seafood business, which has operated at the harbour since 1962.
Until last year he had also spent 25 years running his own fishing boat out of Margate. Now 63, Trevor has no plans to retire from sea altogether and works skippering the boats out to the London Array windfarm off the Kent coast.
He said: “Being actively involved for over 40 years I have seen a tremendous amount of change in the lifeboat service. It has been an honour and a privilege to serve both the seafaring and indeed the local community in this most important of voluntary services.”
The new coxswain of Margate’s all-weather lifeboat is Kevin Andrews. Kevin joined the RNLI as a crewmember in August 1978 and was appointed second coxswain in September 2005.