Celebrating 150 years of Brixham lifeboat station with TV star Tim

Tim Wonnacott with High Sheriff of Devon Mrs Angela Gilbert at the blue plaque unveiling at Brixham

Tim Wonnacott with High Sheriff of Devon Mrs Angela Gilbert at the blue plaque unveiling at Brixham lifeboat station in 2016 - Credit: Tim Wonnacott

With the 150th anniversary of the RNLI in Torbay falling in 2016, Brixham lifeboat station crew mounted a series of events starting with the formal naming and service of dedication of their new inshore RNLI D Class lifeboat the Leslie and Mary Daws, plus many other events over the course of a special week, until eventually there would finally be the unveiling of a Torbay Civic Society Blue Plaque on the RNLI lifeboat station wall at Berry Head Road.

Having originally been contacted in the early months of 2016, to see if a commemorative Blue Plaque could be acceptable on a modern building and if so could we organise the supply of this, plus arrange an unveiling ceremony following the special week for the institution, I knew even before putting the concept to the TCS committee that it was a ‘no-brainer’.

Nevertheless the timing was a bit short, bearing in mind we would be dealing with a committee rather than a single owner.

With the unveiling date already fixed and that it would be on the morning of a day when a charity dinner was occurring in the evening, time as they say ‘soon became of the essence’.

What I was not told was there was to be a special guest from the BBC TV’s Bargain Hunt show to front the charity dinner and auction.

However, with the plaque fully sponsored and pamphlets proofed and the plaque safely recieved from the foundry, we finally attended the official unveiling event at the RNLI building on Brixham slipways on Monday, October 3, 2016.

We had already affixed the plaque to the wall the day before, so all was ready to go ahead once Devon’s High Sheriff and the chairman of Brixham Council plus representatives of the RNLI were in place.

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You can now perhaps imagine my astonishment when in front of me in the audience I spotted Tim Wonnacott, of TV’s Bargain Hunt.

He was some distance away but I immediately beckoned him to come to come forward and join the unveiling group, and be part of the official unveiling ceremony.

Being an ardent fan of Bargain Hunt for more than ten years, it was just too good an opportunity to miss, and so join us he did.

Now I discovered he had come early to Brixham to view this event, as he was to be the ‘star turn’ at the charity auction dinner that evening.

Thankfully, the RNLI ensured my wife Pat and I were able to join the event, virtually at the last moment.

It turned out to be a memorable day for all concerned, as after the various introductions and speeches were complete and the plaque formally unveiled, free refeshment was served before everyone was given the opportunity to view the lifeboat station and visit its small shop opposite sitting alongside the slipway.

Everyone also had the opportunity to meet and talk with the RNLI volunteers.

Torbay lifeboat station as we now know it today had originally been established in 1873 although we learned that a slightly earlier station had been created at Bolton Cross in 1866.

The station in being able to celebrate its 150th anniversary, had also been able to proudly confirm it held a freedom certificate granted by the Borough of Torbay on Friday, April 29 1988, while also confirming that on the last day of these celebrations, a flotilla of classic lifeboats and a search and rescue demonstration, followed by a sponsored five-mile run had all been organised.

Meanwhile our pamphlets the ‘RNLI - Lifeboat Station 1988-2105 (150 years)’ were freely distributed on the unveiling day and at the evening event.

• The same pamphlet is obtainable by sending postage stamps to the value of 50p - plus a stamped addressed envelope to Torbay Civic Society, Suite 1, Palace Avenue Business Centre at 4 Palace Avenue, Paignton TQ1 1DE.