DARTMOUTH’S newest lifeboat will be named in a special ceremony in Coronation Park on Saturday (May 20).
The Atlantic 85 B-931 arrived in the port in last July, by sea from Poole crewed by volunteers from Dart RNLI crew and greeted by a flotilla of lifeboats and pleasure craft.
She has been operational since then, but due to the covid pandemic has yet to be named.
This will be remedied at the weekend, when a member of ‘Auntie Jill’s’ family will name the new lifeboat Frank C Samworth, after her late husband of the family-run Samworth haulage company.
Jill Samworth, affectionately known by the crew as Auntie Jill, first visited the station one Sunday morning more than ten years ago as a shy and retiring widow.
She wanted to make a donation to the station and was encouraged to look around.
Jill returned the following Sunday and handed over an envelope containing a £30,000 cheque.
She returned every Sunday after that - the RNLI Dart’s training day - travelling by taxi from her home 10 miles away in Thurlestone, and soon became a firm favourite with the crew.
In time, she grew in confidence and cheerfulness, attributed by her family to the associated she developed with the station.
She always arrived with cooked sausages for the crew and an expensive tin of biscuits for “her boys”.
Always deeply concerned for the crew and their families, Jill provided the presents and prizes for their children at the annual Christmas parties and Easter egg hunts.
She never had any children of her own and delighted in adopting the crew.
Bob Gilbert, chairman of Dart RNLI, said: “She represented the RNLI with pride and even came to serve on the fundraising committee.
“In the last few years as she became frailer, two of our crew would travel to her home to help out, take her for a coffee or a trip out.”
Jill died in January 2017 and in her will left a large sum of money to RNLI Dart, stipulating it should be used towards the purchase of a new lifeboat and equipment for the crew.
“She is always remembered with great affection and, as far as RNLI Dart is concerned, will always be our ‘Auntie Jill,’ said Bob.
Following a VIP lunch for invited guests and the crew in the lifeboat house, the dedication ceremony will be held at 2pm.
The lifeboat will be named by Sue Groves, a relative of Auntie Jill and members of the public are welcome to attend.
Commodore Jake Moores, chairman of the Dart RNLI Lifeboat Management Group will open proceedings while Peter Inman, donor representative, will hand the lifeboat into the care of the RNLI.
Air Vice-Marshal (ret’d) Aroop Mozumder, the RNLI’s medical director, will accept the lifeboat on behalf of the charity and hand it ito Michael Bryant-Mole, lifeboat operations manager.
Dartmouth Vicar, the Rev Dr Andrew Langley, will lead the service, while the Dartmouth Parish Choir will sing hymns, accompanied by the BRNC volunteer band.
Sue will then name the boat.
The event will also provide the crew with a fundraising opportunity in their bid to raise £1.2 million for a new purpose-built lifestation at Ferry View House, to make launching easier and safer.