THE Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is celebrating 200 years of saving lives at sea. 

Barrow lifeboat station, along with volunteers at stations all around the UK, is celebrating crews and lifeguards having saved an incredible 146,277 lives during its two centuries.

A Service of Thanksgiving to mark the bicentenary is taking place today (Monday) at Westminster Abbey in London.

RNLI chief executive Mark Dowie said: "It has been an honour and a privilege to be at the helm of the RNLI for the past five years, and to see the charity reach its bicentenary.

"For a charity to have survived 200 years based on the time and commitment of volunteers, and the sheer generosity of the public donating to fund it, is truly remarkable.

"It is through the courage and dedication of its incredible people that the RNLI has survived the tests of time, including tragic losses, funding challenges, two World Wars and, more recently, a global pandemic."

The Mail: Barrow RNLIThe service will be attended by representatives from RNLI lifesaving communities around the UK and Ireland, including Paul Heavyside from Barrow lifeboat station.

Barrow RNLI lifeboat station was first founded in 1864 and in that time its crews have launched their lifeboats 1,350 times and saved 367 lives.

The first Barrow lifeboat was a 12 oared self-righting vessel and was housed in a boathouse built on Roa Island at a cost of £240.

The current boathouse at Roa Island opened in 2001 and houses the all-weather lifeboat, ‘Grace Dixon' and the inshore lifeboat, ‘Raymond and Dorothy Billingham’.

Throughout the 160 years of Barrow lifeboats, there has been a proud tradition of generations of the same families volunteering as lifeboat crew and in other supporting roles at the lifeboat station.

The Mail: Overhead view of the Port of BarrowThe UK’s largest port operator, Associated British Ports (ABP), is also marking the day and has also been sharing the important ‘Float to Live’ campaign in the run up to the anniversary.

The campaign provides practical steps to help people survive if they find themselves in difficulty in the water with a special series of floating keyrings carrying the ‘Float to Live’ message - which will be distributed to marine colleagues and boat owners to help them stay safe.

Chris Clouter, assistant port manager at ABP’s Port of Barrow and RNLI volunteer press officer, said: "Volunteering with the RNLI is important to me because it feels like I am part of something much bigger – a lifesaving tradition.

"Knowing that I play a role in helping those in distress out on the water, so that they can return home safely and see their families and loved ones again, is truly rewarding.

"At Barrow, we are lucky to have two other volunteers for the RNLI working at ABP. We look forward to getting our floating ABP keyrings as constant reminders of the great work undertaken by all RNLI volunteers."