Lifeboat marks 150th anniversary

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Kirkcudbright branch of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

The Stewartry Museum in Kirkcudbright celebrates the dedication of the men and women of this life-saving service with an exhibition of photographs, archives and memorabilia from the Kirkcudbright lifeboats. The exhibition is open until October 13.

The RNLI was founded in 1854 as the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck but changed its name to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution that same year. Throughout its entire history the RNLI has been an independent charitable organisation, and is completely reliant on the public for all its funds.

In around 1861 or 1862, following several wrecks near the bar of the River Dee, a Kirkcudbright lifeboat committee was formed and demanded a lifeboat to serve the area. By 1862 the RNLI had established a Kirkcudbright lifeboat station with its boathouse at Creekhead, at the top of St Cuthberts Street.

The first boat, the Helen Lees, had to be hauled on a carriage from the boathouse to the quay, which took precious time. In 1886 the launch point was moved to where the present bridge ends today to ease access.

However, there were still problems: the lifeboat was usually launched for vessels in difficulty on the bar or by Little Ross Lighthouse. This meant that the lifeboat had to be rowed three miles, often in appalling conditions, before they even got to a stricken vessel. This was both exhausting and time consuming.

Finally, in 1892, the present site at the Torrs Shore, nearer to the mouth of the River Dee, was chosen. This new site meant the crew needed to be taken by horse and cart to the edge of Lake Wood where they walked (or ran) nearly a mile over a rough track to the boathouse. However, they had less rowing to do once launched.

By 1997 a new building was acquired which still provides crew training facilities and housing for the Land Rover that takes the crew to the site of the lifeboat three miles away.

The museum is open from 11am-5pm, Monday to Saturday, and 2-5pm on Sundays. Admission is free.