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bullet Monthly Letter of the Vicar of Oystermouth


The Vicar writes...

Dear friends,   

    On Sunday 23rd April our community will come together to remember the 1947 Mumbles Lifeboat disaster.  We will be joined by Lord Williams of Oystermouth, a famous son of the parish, who will preach at a special service of commemoration at 10am in All Saints' that day.
    As the years roll on there are fewer people left who were personally caught up in the tragedy of that terrible day of loss for Mumbles.  I very much hope that a large number of people will join us to remember the disaster and to pray for the continued work of the Mumbles Lifeboat Station.
    One of the joys of being Vicar of Oystermouth is also being Chaplain to the Lifeboat.  Over the last eighteen years I have got to know the crew well and feel privileged to count many of them as friends.  I never cease to be amazed by their courage, their close sense of belonging and their great sense of humour.
    When my son Adam joined the crew, a few years ago, one of the younger lifeboatmen said to him, 'Welcome to the family'. To know the Lifeboat community, the crew and all who support the work of the station, is to know that to be true. 
    The Mumbles Lifeboat has a long and distinguished history spanning over a hundred and fifty years. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution [RNLI] first established a Station on the headland here in January 1866.  Since then, it has been manned by a volunteer crew. 
    Over the years there has been a strong association between the Lifeboat and All Saints' Church. Successive Vicars of Oystermouth have served as Chaplain to the crew. Lifeboat men and women have come here to baptise their children, to tie the knot in marriage, to pay their respects to departed loved ones and to celebrate notable events in the history of the RNLI in the village.
    The sea around Mumbles Head is often extremely treacherous and the Mumbles Station has one of the most distinguished records of service in the British Isles.  
    But we also know how it's record of saving lives at sea has come at a great cost to our small community. For All Saints' houses public memorials to the Mumbles Lifeboat disasters of 1883, 1903 and 1947, which have claimed the lives of eighteen local men. The first two are now consigned to the history books, but the 1947 disaster still resonates with many people here. The stunning memorial window to the loss of the Mumbles Lifeboat and the SS Samtampa on the rocks of Sker point is a constant reminder of the dangers facing the crew and the incredible courage they have.    
    With my son on the crew I know what it is like for family to hear the Lifeboat pager go off in the middle of a stormy night and to lay awake waiting until the crew have returned safely home. Even though they now have state of the art GPS floatation suits and a highly equipped self righting boat, the danger of launching out to sea in storm force winds is always at the back of everyone's mind.
    At the special memorial service held at All Saints' on the 4th May 1947 to honour the lost crew, the former Vicar, Archdeacon Harold Williams, confidently asserted, "As long as there is a Mumbles there will be a Mumbles Lifeboat and Mumbles men will man her."  We know that to be true, even if the crew is made up of men and women these days.
    Seventy years on we honour the courage of the eight men who lost their lives on the Edward, Prince of Wales Lifeboat and the thirty nine crew who perished on the merchant vessel SS Samtampa at Sker Point.  As we read out their names in Church, later this month, we can be immensely proud of the long and heroic record of service of the Mumbles Lifeboat Station, past and present.