RNLI salutes superb female lifesavers

Close up portrait shot of Anstruther crew member Rebecca (Becci) Jewell.
Close up portrait shot of Anstruther crew member Rebecca (Becci) Jewell.

To celebrate the birthday 200 years ago of one of the first heroines of the sea, the RNLI have contrasted the daring rescue with a similar feat of courage by an Anstruther lifeboat volunteer.

The story of Becci Jewell - a member of the Anstruther crew - has been told alongside that of Grace Darling, a lighthouse keeper’s daughter who endeavoured a daring sea rescue in 1838.

Separated by history - Grace and Becci both took part in missions in treacherous conditions to help save the lives of those in danger at sea.

“There are comparisons between the two shouts,” Becci said. “It is not me being compared to Grace, that would be nuts, there is no comparison!

“Both featured horrible conditions and in terms of getting people off the rocks - there were similarities.”

Awoken to the sound of her pager Becci responded to a Mayday call in 2012 that saw her join a team on an inshore lifeboat amidst rough seas and strong winds.

“I didn’t feel I did a great deal,” said Becci. “It stands out because the conditions were so horrible but I have been on other call outs that have been much scarier for me because I have played a bigger part.”

In this instance both casualties were transferred to an all-weather lifeboat and Becci and her fellow crew travelled three miles back through the waves to dry land.

Grace’s story - a tale of bravery that made the headlines - occurred in similarly awful weather. Born in November 1815, Grace was 23-years-old when - during a storm - she witnessed a boat wreck whilst helping her father to look out of the lighthouse for ships that may be in trouble.

A shipwrecked paddlesteamer, the Forfarshire, had run aground on the rocks off Farne Islands of the coast of Bamburgh in the North Sea.

Grace convinced her father to allow her to join him on his mission to try and save the suvivors from the wreck.

They set out in a tiny rowing boat - just 20ft long - through the vicious storm attempting to reach the stranded souls.

Grace steadied the boat as her father climbed onto the rocks and helped the survivors into the boat.

“Her story is incredible,” Becci said.

Becci, a marine mammal observer, spent many summers helping out on boats which sparked her desire to volunteer with the RNLI.

“I have a background in marine biology and was keen when working on the boats down south, to volunteer for the RNLI however I was never around long enough to do so.

“I moved to Scotland in 2007 to do a Masters at the University of St Andrews.

“I approached the coxswain and the crew have since been very kind, tolerant and fun.

“I chose to live in Crail and have since dotted between there, Pitenweem and Anstruther.