The RNLI has a long history of saving lives at sea but they could not be so successful in achieving this task without dedicated volunteers like Tony Edwards.
He has hung up his pager after 37 years of involvement at RNLI Rye Harbour– 11 years as crew, DLA (deputy launch authority) for 24 years and lifeboat operations manager (LOM) for two years.
In 1982 Tony, having left the Royal Marines, signed up as a volunteer crew-member at the Harbour. Humphrey Lestocq was Hon. Secretary at the time (the position now known as LOM). Looking back over this time, Tony said: “One of the most difficult things about being a lifeboat volunteer was the effect on family life. When the pager goes off you may have to leave the Sunday lunch on the table, a party, a full trolley at the supermarket or even someone’s wedding.”
Rosemary, his wife, has been a tremendous support and being an RNLI fundraiser and launcher herself has understood the need for commitment, as have their children, Victoria and Sarah.
There have been many changes over the past 37 years, the most significant being the boats, the equipment, the clothing and training – but these are just the tools.
Tony explained: “The best bit of my career in the RNLI is the satisfaction of knowing I have helped to save lives. I am happy to hand over a station full of purpose and strengthened by seven recent new recruits and a new Helm: there is a buzz at Rye Harbour.
“I have had great pleasure in watching the team grow. The crew become your second family. You see young lads taking on more responsibility and flourishing. I have merely been a custodian for a small part of the history of the station. It makes me proud to leave it in a strong position.
“The new crew members are eager to learn and ready to take on board the training involved. I am proud of all the crew.”
At the leaving party thrown for Tony and Rosemary, Glen Mallen, South East regional life-saving manager, underlined Tony’s achievements: “It is always sad to see someone leave the RNLI. Tony Edwards has been part of the furniture at Rye Harbour lifeboat station for 37 years, the last two as LOM.
“The LOM is the glue that makes bonds and directs a good lifeboat station. He or she is often the unsung hero, the volunteer who locally leads our rescue service. The RNLI and Rye Harbour lifeboat station are indebted to Tony for his long and proud service: I know he will be very much missed.”
Allen Head, area life-saving manager, adds his appreciation of a valued colleague: “At the heart of every lifeboat station lies an unsung hero called the LOM. Tony has been that lifeblood at Rye Harbour for the past two years in which we have seen the station secure a raft of new volunteers and develop them into lifeboat crew. It would be remiss of me not to mention the unwavering support of Tony’s wife Rosemary, who has put up with decades of unexpected pager requests and interruptions to family life. Tony’s dedication to saving lives is a real inspiration and he should be proud of his achievements in this selfless cause. It’s been a pleasure to serve with him.”