Saltire former RNLI

November 13, 2017

One of the older boats berthed in the marina is back in the water after spending much of the summer in the boatyard. Saltire, the former RNLB City of Edinburgh 802, has now been repainted to acknowledge her lifeboat heritage. She was designed by G.L.Watson & Co and built in 1938 at Alexander Robertson’s on Clydebank at a cost of just under £9000 the equivalent of about £500,000 today.  She went into service at Wick that year with the naming ceremony taking place in August the following year just before the outbreak of World War Two.

In the thirty years she was stationed at Wick she was launched 134 times and saved 204 lives.  Her first call out was early on September 2nd 1939 to go to the aid of the Grimsby trawler Washington which had run aground. Having managed to refloat the vessel and get it back to Wick, City of Edinburgh was then called out again in the evening to the fishing boat Navarre which had run onto rocks and rescued its crew of nine. Her first wartime call out was on October 23rd to look for a missing RAF plane which the crew were unable to trace. The following year, in March 1940, she went to the rescue of survivors from two Danish fishing boats that had been torpedoed. It wasn’t just submarines that posed a risk in the waters off Wick. A newspaper report of the time said the Coxswain, Neil Stewart, would order the engines stopped if he heard a plane overhead as enemy pilots were known to drop bombs on moving ships using the phosphorescence of the wake to locate their target.

City of Edinburgh was one of 28 Watson 46 class lifeboats built and put into service with two further incomplete boats destroyed in an air raid on the Isle of Wight. In 1966 she was re-engined with 65hp Ford Parsons Barracudas and in 1968 assigned to the reserve fleet, a period of service which included a spell at Workington in 1974 when the coxswain, Albert Brown, won the RNLI’s Bronze Medal following the rescue of seven crew from the fishing boat Kia-Ora. She was eventually sold off in 1974 and converted to a cruiser, although many of the original deck fittings remain as do a number of features below decks.

After lying on the Caledonian Canal and then the Crinan Canal for a number of years she was brought down to Whitehaven in 2014. Her current custodian is researching her history in greater detail and plans to produce a modest publication next year.

Written by owner Will Tillotson



Saltire 1965 - photo from RNLI


Saltire berthed at Whitehaven 2014


Saltire after her repaint 2017



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