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Courtown RNLI’s inshore D class lifeboat officially named Frank

At a special naming ceremony and service of dedication held on Saturday 28 May, Courtown RNLI officially named its inshore D class lifeboat, Frank.

Courtown RNLI name new lifeboat Frank. Photo: Jackie Tighe

The honour of handing over the lifeboat and officially naming her went to Martin and Liz Bandey, close friends of the late Frank Watkin who the lifeboat is named after. The couple were representing Frank’s wife Kathleen who was unable to attend the ceremony.

The lifeboat which went on service in January 2020 is funded by Frank and Kathleen, who together shared a love for the sea and sailing in particular.

Frank and Kathleen were married in Bishopstoke in England after Frank’s work took him from the Ford Motor Company office in Essex to the Ford Transit manufacturing factory in Southampton. He soon decided he preferred Hampshire to Essex and when the couple were married, they bought a yacht which was kept in Chichester Harbour where they spent many happy and exciting ventures both around the harbour and into the Solent.

After Frank died and with no immediate known relatives, Kathleen had a decision to make with what she wanted to do with her inheritance. With a passion for the sea and sailing, she visited the RNLI Support Centre in Poole and after what she described as an educational and exciting trip, she was captivated and decided she wanted at that point to put some funds into the charity that saves lives at sea rather than wait until she passed away.

At the same time, the next lifeboat being built was waiting for funds and was partially constructed at the RNLI boatyard in East Cowes on the Isle of Wight. It was arranged for Kathleen to visit and see the lifeboat she would later name Frank, in the final stages of its construction.

Liz Bandey pours champagne over the new lifeboat Frank. Photo: Jackie Tighe 

During today’s naming ceremony, Anna Classon, RNLI Head of Region for Ireland, accepted the lifeboat on behalf of the charity from Martin Bandey, before handing her over into the care of Courtown Lifeboat Station.

During her address she said: ‘This D class lifeboat is the thirteenth lifeboat on station here in Courtown since the lifeboat was re-established in 1990. The original lifeboat station began operations in 1865 and closed in 1925. Since the station reopened, our inshore lifeboat crews have answered over 240 calls for help, bringing 515 people to safety, 46 of whom were lives saved, while operating these D class lifeboats.’

She then praised the efforts of all those who supported the work of the station: ‘We are immensely proud of all our volunteers who give up their time here at Courtown Lifeboat Station and throughout the organisation and we thank you for the dedication, commitment and sacrifice made by each of you to help others. Whatever your role – crew, station management, fundraiser, donor, you are the embodiment of the RNLI - willingly and selflessly helping others in need.’

Liz and Martin Bandey with Sam Kennedy. Photo: Jackie Tighe

Lifeboat Operations Manager Sam Kennedy accepted the lifeboat on behalf of Courtown RNLI ahead of Frank being blessed in a service of dedication led by Father Tom Dalton, the station’s Lifeboat Training Coordinator, and the Reverend Margaret Sykes. The lifeboat was then officially named by Liz Bandey.

Sam said the event was a special occasion for the lifeboat station adding that the crew were most grateful to Kathleen for her generous gift in memory of her husband which had funded this lifeboat, Frank.

‘As Lifeboat Operations Manager along with the deputy launching authorities, part of my job is to authorise her launch when requested. It’s my job to send a message to the volunteers, asking them to get down to the station as quick as possible.

‘When the crew arrive here, and get kitted up, and head out to sea, we’ll have peace of mind because this lifeboat will help to keep them safe, as they save others. So, on behalf of all the station volunteers, I would like to thank Kathleen and the late Frank. Your generosity has given Courtown a lifesaver.’

At the end of the ceremony, a specially commissioned painting of Frank at its new home in Courtown Harbour by local artist Kate Kos, was presented by the station to Liz and Martin to give to Kathleen on their return to England.

Volunteers at Courtown RNLI. Photo: Jackie Tighe

The D class Frank replaces the Caird Au Chuain which served Courtown RNLI for over 10 years. During that time, the lifeboat launched 50 times bringing 61 people to safety, four of whom were lives saved.

The D class inshore lifeboat has been the workhouse of the RNLI for over 50 years.

First introduced into the RNLI fleet in 1963, the design of the inflatable D class continues to evolve to meet changes in demand and technology.

The lifeboat is highly maneuverable and usually operates closer to shore than all-weather lifeboats. It comes into her own for searches and rescues in the surf, shallow water and confined locations – often close to cliffs, among rocks and even inside caves.

Courtown D class lifeboat D-846 Frank. Photo: RNLI/Courtown

A lifeboat station was originally established in Courtown in 1865 when a station was opened at the request of local residents and a boathouse was constructed at a cost of £200. A new Peake class lifeboat Alfred and Ernest which was built in 1852, was placed on service. The station was closed in 1925 before the RNLI established an inshore lifeboat station in 1990 with the placing of a D class lifeboat for evaluation purposes. The old boathouse was later repurchased, and a new D class lifeboat was placed on service the following year.

A crowd of well-wishers turned up to see the lifeboat officially named with a bottle of champagne poured over the side of the boat before it launched at the end of the ceremony.

Among the guests on the platform party were Mark Chambers, Courtown RNLI Deputy Launching Authority, who welcomed guests and opened proceedings, Martin and Liz Bandey, close friends of Frank and Kathleen who handed over and named the lifeboat, Anna Classon, RNLI Head of Region for Ireland, who accepted the lifeboat on behalf of the RNLI and handed it over into the care of Courtown Lifeboat Station, Sam Kennedy, Courtown RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager, and Courtown RNLI Helm Yvette Deacon who gave a vote of thanks and closed proceedings.

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