LIFEBOATMEN threw flowers into the North Sea yesterday as part of a final goodbye to a 104-year-old station.
Crew members and local residents lined the harbour walls at St Abbs in Berwickshire as the station was officially closed by the RNLI.
They threw 230 red, yellow and purple flowers into the water – one for every life saved over the years.
Lifelong volunteer Alistair Crowe was unable to watch as the orange boat was lowered down the slipway for the last time.
One woman could be heard shouting “Shame on you RNLI” as the vessel left the harbour, a feeling shared by many who turned up on the cold Monday morning.
67-year-old Alistair, who joined the volunteer crew over 50 years ago, teared up as he tried to explain his emotions.
“I had to go around the corner when they lowered the boat,” he said. “I couldn’t stand and watch that.
“It’s been a very emotional day for everyone. The entire community has turned out and supported us which is very comforting.
“We are so disgusted that a professional organisation can make such a poor decision.”
Earlier this year, the RNLI announced its intention to close the station following a review on the best use of resources.
The area, extremely popular with divers, is set to be served by Eyemouth station – roughly two miles away.
Distraught volunteers have vowed to use their own fishing vessels to rescue those in danger, and are now in discussion about setting up an independent lifeboat.
Euan Gibson, campaign manager for ‘Save St Abbs Lifeboat’, said: “The old boat is gone and now we have to look forward.
“So many people think it is a mistake to take the lifeboat away – now we think it would be a mistake to not try and set up our own one.
“There has already been so much support, and the next step is to talk to the village and see if they will back us.”
He added: “The RNLI is not welcome here any more. We thought loyalty was a two-way street, but we must have been wrong.
“We had a crew night last night and everyone came down. It was great for us all to be at the station one last time.
“But the mood today is much more sombre. It’s a sad day for all.”
The walls of the station are still lined with yellow rescue jackets, which will be picked up by the RNLI in the next few days.
The pagers lie in a pile in the office – now disconnected and not in use.
Despite the sad atmosphere, volunteers remain hopeful that there will still be a future for the station at St Abbs.
They shared bottles of whisky and sloe gin as residents left the harbour and returned home.
Andy Clift, from the RNLI operations department, was also present as the station was officially closed.
He said: “We understand it is a sad day for all the volunteers. 104 years and many lives saved is a massive achievement.
“A lot of thought went into the decision to close the station and we have listened to what everyone has said.
“With Eyemouth so close we feel that we will still be able to provide a good service in the area.
“If the volunteers decided to start up their own lifeboat we would hope to be able to build a new relationship with them. “