PORT William has always been very proud of it’s inshore rescue lifeboat, PIRSAC, and the volunteer crew that ‘man’ it has one very unique member in Shonah Thompson, the only female member of a lifeboat crew in Galloway.
Twenty-five-year-old Shonah, who lives in South Street with husband Jamie and kids Cameron, 4, and two-year-old Josh, has been a member of PIRSAC for eight years.
She said: “I joined PIRSAC just after my 18th birthday. I used to come down to Portpatrick on holiday when I was a child and I loved watching the lifeboat launching. I thought it was great.
“When we came to live in Port William, my dad and brother joined the crew here and I joined as soon as I was old enough.”
Shonah had to go though training in first aid, radio, boat launching and basic water safety at Kirkcudbright.
“I just picked things up as I went along” she added.
Since joining the 15 strong all male crew, Shonah has been out in all weather around 50 to 60 times , answering the call of those in distress at sea. She says she takes every rescue as it comes but admits that she was affected by having to look for the body of a woman who committed suicide by jumping into a river a few years ago.
As the first female to go out in the PIRSAC craft, Shonah has to take her fair share of ribbing from the men who tease her about whether he hair is looking all right of if she had time to put her make up on! But, she says, she gives as good as she gets and enjoys the harmless banter.
As PIRSAC are totally self-funded Shonah is involved in the crews fundraising events throughout the year. They recently had a sales table at the motor bike festival in Newton Stewart and the annual PIRSAC car boot sale on the village harbour always gives the inshore lifeboat’s funds a huge boost.
This cheery young woman also recognised the vital role that crews like the PIRSAC members play in the fabric of a shoreline community.
She says: “We are there to save peoples lives. We are right on the sea here in Port William and if someone is in trouble we are able respond quickly. It would take the lifeboats from Portpartick or Kirkcudbright longer to get here.”
PIRSAC coxwain Murray Morland said: “It’s handy to have a female crew member, we have tried in the village for years, as it can be difficult to get volunteers that are available throughout the day.
“Shonah is respected as one of the team and she doesn’t ask for or get special treatment. She just mucks in”.