St Abbs Lifeboat Jane Hay

The St Abbs lifeboat Jane Hay was built by William Osborne of Littlehampton. She was an Oakley Class lifeboat, a class which was first built in 1958. You can read more about this class of lifeboat on Wikipedia. The film below shows an Oakley Class lifeboat in 1966.

The Jane Hay, Operational Number 974, was 37 feet long. She was sent to St Abbs in November 1964. She had an eventful journey.

POACHER’S NET FOULS LIFEBOAT. A new £33,000 lifeboat on passage to her station at St Abbs, Berwick, was put out of action by a salmon poacher’s net at Whitby. The net, stretched across the harbour between Scotch Head and Tate Hill Pier, fouled her twin propellors as she entered the port. The crew had a drogue out to steady the lifeboat, and because of this she was unable to back away from the net. They managed get a line ashore and attempted to free the obstruction, but were unsuccessful. Later they beached the lifeboat on Tate Hill Sands. After another unsuccessful attempt had been made today it was decided to put the lifeboat on Whitby Shipbuilding and Engineering Company’s slipway at Spital Bridge and remove the propellors. Commenting on the incident today, Mr J R Walton the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s Scottish district inspector of lifeboats said, “I wonder what would have happened if the Whitby lifeboat had struck the obstruction after receiving an emergency call?” He said the lifeboat was due to arrive at St Abbs tomorrow, but would now be delayed at least one day. The lifeboat is an Oakley type self righting craft, 37 feet long. She is to be named Jane Hay. With Mr Walton on board are the Institution’s travelling engineer, Mr B Knox, and four members of the St Abbs lifeboat crew. The rod fishing season for salmon ended four days ago, and the net season ended on August 31st, but it is illegal to use a net for salmon inside the harbour at any time.

Aberdeen Evening Express, Wednesday 04 November 1964

The lifeboat was funded by:

  • Legacy of Mrs Mabel Erskine of Hove, Sussex in memory of her late husband, Commander David Victor Fairfax Eskine.
  • Legacy of Miss Anne McDonald Smith of Dundee.
  • Gift of her sister Miss Emma Smith.
  • Gift of Miss Margaret Gillespie of Glasgow.

She was named after a campaigner for the first St Abbs lifeboat, Miss Jane Hay. There is a great deal to be told about her, but in summary, her obituary in 1914 read:

The death has occurred at Montreux, in France, of Miss Jane Hay, St Abbs Haven, Berwickshire. A breakdown in health last year necessitated her resigning her various public offices, and going abroad. Miss Hay served on Edinburgh School Board and Parish Council; was one of the founders of the Scottish American Society. She did useful work in administering relief work after the Greco-Turkish war, and was instrumental in 1899 in establishing a relief centre in Kazan, one of the famine-stricken districts of Russia. She took a keen interest in Indian affairs, and in literature. music, and art. Her friends and guests at the Haven included many who were already famous, and also many young and promising poets, musicians, and artists. Her public work was concerned primarily with the interest of children. She was a vice-chairman of Berwickshire Insurance Committee, one of the few lady lifeboat secretaries in Britain, and member of the Executive of the East Coast Fishermen’s Association. She served on Coldingham School Board and Parish Council, and gave evidence before the Poor Law Commission.

Newcastle Journal, Wednesday 28 January 1914

The Jane Hay was launched in St Abbs on the 17th April 1965. (For a photo see the launch of the Jane Hay on the St Abbs Lifeboat website). The newspaper reported:

The St Abbs lifeboat was christened Jane Hay and launched in a gale at the weekend. Fishing people from along the coast were joined by hundreds of holidaymakers. Before she performed the ceremony, Lady Morgan, wife of Admiral Sir Vaughan Morgan and niece of the late Miss Jane Hay, recalled the deed of her aunt. In 1911 Miss Hay went out in a storm, to give hope to wrecked Danish seamen. “She had a strong singing voice,” said Lady Edith, “She kept calling to the crew that help was coming.” But it arrived too late because the nearest lifeboat was at Eyemouth. Although her health suffered from the ordeal, Miss Hay immediately campaigned for a lifeboat station at St Abbs. The first boat arrived in 1914. Lady Edith commented, “There is nothing my aunt would have appreciated more than having a lifeboat named after her. Lady Edith and guests were taken for a trip in spite of the gale.

Newcastle Journal, Monday 19 April 1965

After serving in St Abbs, in 1974 the RNLI decided to withdraw the lifeboat:

LIFEBOAT GOES. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is to withdraw from service the lifeboat at St Abbs near Berwick. The area will be served from Eyemouth.

Newcastle Journal, Wednesday 12 June 1974

The Jane Hay went on to serve as a relief fleet lifeboat, including a spell in Hastings in 1974. She then served in Newcastle from 1980 to 1992. In 1992 she went into storage, and was eventually broken up at Tyrells Yard, Arklow, in 1995.

The hull was still at Arklow in 2018.

There is a film of the Jane Hay at the Huntley Film Archive.


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