The official naming ceremony took place today (14th July 2018) of Leverburgh’s new Shannon class all-weather lifeboat, RNLB Stella and Humfrey Berkeley 13-25, just over two months since the brand-new £2.1m lifeboat arrived in Leverburgh on 21st April.
The special ceremony, held on Leverburgh Pier, was attended by a large crowd despite the somewhat damp day. Sgoil Lionacleit Pipe Band, who had travelled over especially for the occasion, started the day's events followed by an opening song from local ladies choir, Coisir Bhan Na Hearadh, under the instruction of Iain “Costello” MacIver.
Leverburgh RNLI Honorary President, Hamish Taylor paid tribute to the communities of Harris, Berneray, North Uist and beyond, who have supported the RNLI so well since its establishment in Leverburgh six years ago. The new Shannon was accepted on behalf of the RNLI, by Roger Lockwood, Chair of the RNLI Scottish Council.
Following the transfer of the Lifeboat to the station, Chris Ross, Lifeboat Operations Manager at Leverburgh, accepted the lifeboat on behalf of the volunteer crew, before Rev Mark MacLeod, Station Chaplain, led the Service of Dedication.
The Shannon Class Lifeboat was then officially named by Penny Innes, which included a pouring of the now world-famous Isle of Harris Gin over the bow of the boat. This gesture was particularly significant as 2 of Leverburgh’s volunteer crew are employed by the distillery.
The day’s proceedings were brought to a close with a vote of thanks from Leverburgh RNLI’s Chairman, Neil Campbell and a final performance by Coisir Bhan Na Hearadh.
The majority cost of Leverburgh’s new Shannon Class Lifeboat, RNLB Stella and Humfrey Berkeley, was funded by the legacy of Mr Humfrey Ingram Berkeley and his late wife Stella. Both were avid supporters of the RNLI and were also joint governors. Mr Berkeley left all of his residual estate to the RNLI and wished for a Lifeboat to be named after him and his wife. He also wanted the Lifeboat to be stationed on the West Coast of Scotland, in memory of the sailing that he and his wife enjoyed in those areas. Penny Innes, a niece of Mr & Mrs Berkeley, along with her family, was in Leverburgh for the naming ceremony and officially handed the Lifeboat to the RNLI.
In addition to the Berkeley Legacy, the Lifeboat has also been funded by the following people/legacies:
• Mrs Muriel Madeleine Mackay
• Mr Hugh John Waterman
• Miss Isabel May Hogg
• Lord Leverhulmes Charitable Trust
The station also wants to acknowledge sums of money left to them by the estate of the late Mary Aida (Maida) MacLeod MacAskill, Morningside, Edinburgh (but formerly Berneray, Harris) and also a £10,000 donation from the Jeffrey Trust. This money will go towards the construction of a new fixed pontoon. The current pontoon is a temporary, modular structure and presents crew with sometimes challenging conditions underfoot.
After the ceremony, attendees enjoyed a sumptuous spread of tea and home-baking, provided by the station’s volunteer fundraisers, with more musical accompaniment from the talented Sgoil Lionacleit Pipe Band.
Following the proceedings, Leverburgh Coxswain, Angus Morrison said: “The naming ceremony and service of dedication is a very special day for our lifeboat station and we are grateful to the legacy of Humfrey Ingram Berkeley and his late wife Stella, along with our additional donors, for allowing us this opportunity. Since the new Lifeboat went on service on 2nd May, it has been launched on 5 occasions. Attending calls for help with a vessel as advanced as the Shannon in terms of safety and technology, really has enhanced our life-saving capability in the wide area we serve.”
Leverburgh Lifeboat Operations Manager, Chris Ross added: "It has been both an honour and a privilege to have the families and representatives of those who contributed to the build of our new Shannon here in Leverburgh for this momentous occasion. Having the very best boats and equipment is key to the safety of our volunteer crew and undoubtedly helps to save lives at sea. It is thanks to the donors and their families that we find ourselves in the fortunate position of being home to one of the RNLI’s 20 Shannon Class Lifeboats on service today."
Designed in-house by RNLI naval architects, the Shannon class lifeboat was introduced to the RNLI’s fleet in 2013. The Shannon class is the first of the RNLI’s all-weather lifeboats to be powered by water-jets rather than traditional propellers, making it the most agile and manoeuvrable lifeboat in the charity’s fleet. Capable of 25 knots, the Shannon class is 50% faster than the Mersey she replaces. Able to cope with all weathers, she is inherently self-righting in the event of a capsize. The Shannon incorporates the very latest computer technology and is equipped with SIMS (systems and information management system), which allows crew members to monitor and operate many of the boat’s functions from the safety of their seats.
The naming ceremony of Leverburgh’s Shannon Class Life Lifeboat ties in nicely with the RNLI’s “Shannon Week”, an online publicity campaign which has been running all week to celebrate 5 years since the first Shannon joined the RNLI fleet. Online posts relating to this can be seen by searching for #shannonweek.