Heroes of doomed RNLI station pose for haunting last pictures

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HAUNTING portraits of lifeboat heroes include the moment the crew of a doomed RNLI station stood together for the last time.

Twenty volunteers at St Abbs in Berwickshire posed in front of their 104-year-old station, from which 226 lives have been saved.

Last month it was controversially decided the station would be shut following a review on the best use of resources.

Volunteers reached out to Newcastle-based photographer Jack Lowe, who is currently on a mission to photograph all 237 lifeboat stations in Britain and Ireland, to include St Abbs before it was too late.

Jack used a photography method developed in the Victorian era – older than the lifeboat station itself – to capture the poignant black and white images.

The photographer used Victorian methods
The photographer used Victorian methods

 

The six pictures, which are developed on glass, include a portrait of lifeboat operations manager Alistair Crowe, who is in his 50th year of service at the station, the view down the slipway and of the 20-strong crew in front of their station.

Jack also captured the RNLI helmsmen, a picture of the boathouse and the view over St Abbs Harbour, showing the station sitting in the “heart of the community”.

The pictures can be compared with a set of postcards from over 100 years ago, which show the slipway but no lifeboat shed.

The old photographs also show one of the first lifeboats at the station returning from practice.

Jack said “raw emotion” could be felt on the day he visited the team – as this was the first station he has photographed which faces imminent closure.

“I was approached by the volunteers because they really wanted their station to be included in the project,” he said.

The Victorian era equipment
The Victorian era equipment

 

“There was a lot of raw emotion on the day, a lot of sadness. But the volunteers were still being pro-active and they were still utterly respectful of the RNLI and what they do.

“These are likely the last pictures that will be taken of the crew at the station, and it was nice to be able to capture this slice of history.

“I’d like to think of the photographs as a celebration and commemoration of the station and all it has done over the years.”

Angus Skene, who has been a volunteer at the station for 35 years, said: “It was a brilliant day and the pictures are stunning.

“It was amazing seeing them getting developed – it took about an hour in total to get the crew one done.

“We’re all very happy with them and are glad to have the pictures. It was actually the first time in twelve years the whole crew had been together since usually only a few of us go out on rescues at a time.”

Jack’s project involves travelling around the country in his mobile darkroom – a decommissioned NHS ambulance – and using an ancient process to make photographs on glass which was popular with the Victorians between the 1850s and the 1880s.

He described documenting St Abbs as a “privilege” and has gifted the station with six prints of the photographs.

St Abbs harbour, an area popular with divers, will be served by a station at Eyemouth – two miles away.

The crew have said that the decision would risk lives and “rip the heart out” of the fishing village.

Despite fierce opposition from locals, and an online petition reaching over 3,000 signatures, the closure is set to go ahead as planned.

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