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Manx lifeboats save 1,665 lives in 200 years

Credit: RNLI

The RNLI is marking its 200th anniversary today

Manx lifeboats have saved 1,665 lives in the last 200 years.

Today (4 March) marks the anniversary of the start of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

The charity was founded on the Isle of Man in 1824 by Sir William Hillary.

Since then volunteer crews, across five lifeboat stations, have launched 3,154 times.

Speaking live on Manx Radio Breakfast with Ben and Sian, beside the statue of Sir William Hillary, Douglas' Lifeboat Operations Manager Peter Washington gave an overview of the charity's history:


In total, across the British Isles and Ireland, 146,452 lives have been saved by the RNLI – this equates to an average of two lives per day.

  • Douglas Lifeboat Station: Launches: 667 - Lives Saved: 348
  • Peel Lifeboat Station: Launches: 557 - Lives Saved: 254
  • Port Erin Lifeboat Station: Launches: 436 - Lives Saved: 119
  • Port St Mary Lifeboat Station: Launches: 804 - Lives Saved: 293
  • Ramsey Lifeboat Station: Launches: 690 - Lives Saved: 651

Credit: RNLI/Anya Walton

We went out with the Port Erin branch to find out a bit more about what the volunteers have to go through.


In the early 19th century there was an average of 1,800 shipwrecks a year around our coasts – and the danger of shipwreck was an accepted way of life at sea.

Living in Douglas Sir William Hillary witnessed dozens of these and, with the help of local people, he saved many lives.

Determined to do more he made an impassioned appeal to the nation in 1823 detailing his plans for a lifeboat service manned by trained crew for all the of the British Isles and Ireland.

However his idea initially fell on deaf ears.

After a year of campaigning, on 4 March 1824, more than 30 men put their names to the fledgling charity at a public meeting in Bishopsgate’s City of London Tavern.

Supported by King George IV and the prime minister the RNLI was born.

RNLI Heritage Archive and Research Manager Hayley Whiting said: “Twelve resolutions were passed at that meeting - the core of which still stand as part of the RNLI’s Charter 200 years later.

“This shows how the RNLI’s values and purpose have remained unwavering for 200 years despite the social and economic changes and challenges of the past two centuries.

“Hillary’s vision was ambitious and forward-thinking and, no doubt, he would be extremely proud to see the charity he founded still going strong today and to see how much it has achieved."

Credit: RNLI

‘Thank You’

RNLI Chief Executive Mark Dowie: “For a charity to have survived 200 years based on the time and commitment of volunteers, and the sheer generosity of the public donating to fund it, is truly remarkable.

“It is through the courage and dedication of its incredible people that the RNLI has survived the tests of time, including tragic losses, funding challenges, two world wars and, more recently, a global pandemic.

“Today we mark the bicentenary of the RNLI.

“We remember the achievements and commitment of all those who have been part of the RNLI family over the past two centuries; we celebrate the world-class lifesaving service we provide today, based on our 200 years of learning, expertise and innovation, and we hope to inspire future generations of lifesavers and supporters who will take the RNLI into its next century and beyond.”

Jo Partner, RNLI Head of Region for the Isle of Man, added:I am immensely grateful to everyone who is involved with the charity here in the Isle of Man – our volunteers, supporters and staff.

“Today is a hugely significant day in our history and an occasion we should all be very proud of.

“I know there are lots of events being planned across the island throughout 2024 to mark this very special celebration and I hope people enjoy being part of this significant piece of history.

“I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all those who play a part in making the RNLI the proud organisation is it today – which really is a cause for celebration.”

Credit: RNLI


Celebrations are taking place on the Island today and across the British Isles and Ireland with the charity’s lifeboat service spread across 238 stations.

Douglas Council is hosting an event on Douglas Promenade from 10:30am and a service of thanksgiving will take place at Westminster Abbey, in London, at 11.30am.

You can watch it live HERE.

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