We are Looe RNLI….With your support, we save lives at sea
The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), a charity registered in England and Wales (209603), Scotland (SC037736), the Republic of Ireland (20003326), the Bailiwick of Jersey (14),
the Isle of Man (1308 and 006329F), the Bailiwick of Guernsey and Alderney | RNLI (Sales) Ltd | RNLI Shop (registration number 2202240 and RNLI College Ltd (registration number
7705470) both companies registered in England and Wales at West Quay Road, Poole, BH15 1HZ. Images and copyright © RNLI 2021.
We save lives by providing a 24-hour lifeboat search and rescue service,
seasonal lifeguards, water safety education and initiatives and flood rescue response.
1866 - The First Station
The first station was established in Looe in 1866, following the loss of several lives when local boatmen went to the assistance of a fishing
vessel. Sadly their boat capsized in the breakers on returning ashore.
At that time, there was a great demand for a lifeboat due to the large number of vessels using the harbour. So on 28 December 1866, after
£420 was raised from families in Oxfordshire, a 32 foot ten oared lifeboat with a carriage was ‘commissioned’ on condition that the Looe
townspeople provided a boathouse for £220 and maintained it for £35 per annum.
The new boat was named The Oxfordshire, at the request of the late Sir John Pollard Willoughby and she remained on station until 1885
having launched 14 times and saved 14 lives.
The Oxfordshire was succeeded by Boys Own No. 1, a gift of the readers of Boys Own Paper, who raised £1,200, split between two lifeboats,
one for Poole and one for Looe.
The boat was launched on seven occasions and saved 37 lives
1902 - The Ryder
In May 1902 a new boat arrived, funded by a legacy from the late William Ryder of
Similar in design to Boys Own No. 1 and built at a cost of £750 plus £85 delivery, the
boat was named Ryder by Lady Trelawney.
During the following years the Ryder distinguished herself in many services. In 1915
many of the crew had gone to war and five new volunteers were recruited. In 1928
the Ryder was despatched to assist the Paris, a French liner with 1,500 people on
board, bound for Plymouth which had run aground on the Eddystone Rocks.
The Plymouth lifeboat was out of action so the Ryder launched and made all
possible speed to the Eddystone, but later a message came through that the Paris
had got off on a rising tide with little damage. This was the last service performed by
the Ryder before, much to the consternation of local people, the Looe lifeboat
station closed in July 1930.
The Ryder carried out 12 launches and saved 37 lives.
It is worth noting that all the lifeboats of this period were powered by the crew,
Today the restored Ryder is moored in Polperro and in the summer, volunteer’s row
round the headland to Looe and join in many of the events in Looe.
1991 - Relief Boat
In 1991 the RNLI resolved that, subject to the provision of suitable shore facilities, a summer only D Class lifeboat would be allocated to Looe
for one season’s operational evaluation. A relief lifeboat was then stationed here until the summer of 1994, when Spirit of the ROAC took up
station in a temporary lifeboat house provided generously by East Looe Town Trust. In 1998 the lifeboat was moved to the lifeboat house at
Middleton’s corner on East Looe Quay.
2002 - New Station
In 2002 it was agreed that an Atlantic 75 inshore lifeboat would be co-located at Looe and a
new lifeboat station would be built on the site of the old Albatross warehouse. Its construction
commenced in the autumn of that year. As well as housing the station’s two lifeboats, the
building would provide facilities for the crew and a purpose build RNLI souvenir shop. The
first floor of the building was designed to provide a training room, office facilities and an
observation point from which safety of the lifeboats could be monitored.
The new purpose built station was opened 2003 and houses two inshore lifeboats. The
thriving souvenir shop is one of the busiest in the South West and raises substantial funds
which have helped save many lives at sea.
Since it opened, there have been over 400 shouts and 290 people rescued.
2010 - Ollie Naismith
Following the tragic death of a popular local teenager Ollie Naismith in a road traffic
accident in 2009,
Ollie’s parents Maxine and John Naismith spearheaded a fundraising campaign to
raise sufficient funds for a new D Class lifeboat.
Funding of over £35,000 was raised and the new lifeboat named Ollie Naismith
brought into service in 2010.
2017 - Sheila and Dennis Tongue II
In 2017 the Sheila and Dennis Tongue II was brought into service, funded by a
generous legacy from the late Sheila and Dennis Tongue.
It was in their retirement years that they began to appreciate the value of the
RNLI, not just for its crucial work in saving lives, but as an integral part of the life
of a coastal town.
They became regular visitors to the RNLI shop for Christmas cards, tea towels
and calendars and as they had no children, the decision to leave a substantial
legacy to the RNLI was partly as a ’thank you’ for the happy days they had spent
in and around Exmouth
It was also in recognition of the vital work of the RNLI.
Since the re-establishment of a Lifeboat station in 1992, various Atlantic and D-
Class inshore lifeboats on station have launched 353 times, rescuing 283 people
and saving 54 lives.
Over the stations history one RNLI gallantry medal has been awarded, a silver medal which was given to William Jennings, a Coastguard, for a
rescue he carried out from shore in 1838.
The French government also awarded a gold medal, 2nd Class to Coxswain Edward Tomes and a silver medal, 2nd Class, to each of the crew
of the Boys Own No. 1 when she rescued the crew of the French barque Gypsy in 1901, when she lost her bearings and having mistaken the
lights of Downderry for Plymouth, ran aground on the rocks.
The French captain attempted to keep the boat afloat by pumping out, but eventually gave the command to abandon ship and 14 of the crew
were taken into the lifeboat which had been standing off. Also saved were 3 kittens. The lifeboat eventually returned to Looe at 1.30 am.
By morning Gypsy was a total wreck.
Looe RNLI are now are part of a national RNLI safety initiative known as Community Safety. It is designed to prevent various
types of incidents both ashore and at sea, prevention being significantly better than ‘cure’.
Locally, this is a joint initiative between the Looe Community Safety team, HM Coastguard and RNLI lifeguards.
A History of Looe Lifeboat Station - Established 1866