|St Andrews Lifeboat c1910|
In 1938 the R.N.L.I. closed the Lifeboat Station in St Andrews. On Saturday, 10th September of that year a large crowd gathered at the harbour to see the lifeboat, the “John and Sarah Hatfield” leave for the last time. She was heading for Portobello where alterations would take place to convert her into a pleasure boat.
The coxswain was David Fenton who had been a member of the lifeboat crew for 40 years. His gallantry and outstanding skill had been recognised by the R.N.L.I., the Carnegie Hero Fund and the Royal Humane Society. Other lifeboat men such as James Chisholm, Alex Hill Gourlay, Robert Wilson Senior and Robert Wilson, Junior had also received medals and certificates during their long careers.
The “John and Sarah Hatfield” had come into service in St Andrews in 1910. She was a 25 ft. self-righting Rubie Class vessel. During her 28 years of service she had aided many vessels in distress and 43 lives in all had been saved. Her impressive record includes:-
1912 3 lives saved- “The Resolute”
1912 9 crew members saved- “Prinses Wilhelmina”
1914 13 lives saved - the destroyer, “H.M.S. Success” driven ashore at Kingsbarns
during a hurricane
1931 10 crew members saved – the steam trawler, “Loch Long”
We must remember that lifeboats at that time had no engines and had to be rowed by the crew who were all volunteers and mainly the local fishermen. The lifeboat was launched on the East Sands with the help of local men from the town who waded into the water and pulled on ropes.
The Lifeboat House is now home to St Andrews Sailing Club. On one of the walls there are boards which give details of the names of the St Andrews Lifeboats and their record of service since 1860, i.e. “Annie” changed to “Polly and Lucy”, “Ladies Own”, “Louisa” and “John and Sarah Hatfield”. These boards make very interesting reading. It was in 1860 that the Royal National Lifeboat Institution established a Lifeboat Station in St Andrews.
There had been 2 lifeboats before 1860. The first one came into service in 1800 and the second one in 1824. Between 1824 and 1860 more than 70 lives had been saved.
Thinking of St Andrews today, it is surprising to note that the prosperity of the fishing industry was reaching its peak around 1881 when 3 of the largest boats fishing in Scotland, “Sea King”, “Our Queen” and “Fisher Lassie” were fishing from St Andrews.
In 1938 when the Lifeboat Station was closed there was an article in the local press which referred to the lifeboat men as the “Red Cross Men of the Sea” – “splendid types of the rugged, hardy heroic toilers of the deep whom the Fife coast and the seaboard of Scotland have bred for centuries past”.