Into the maelstrom: William F Yates

Posted on 25th October, 2017

This article was originally published in the North Wales Weekly News on 25 October 2017. 

Last Saturday, in the company of several hundred others from Llandudno, Colwyn Bay and farther afield, I attended the opening of the new RNLI lifeboat station at Craig y Don. It was a once-in-a-lifetime event. The old station had served the North Wales coast since 1906, but was in the wrong place. A new station was first proposed over 30 years ago, but its construction had been delayed by planning and other problems. The opening marked the end of a long journey.

The opening ceremony, quite properly, was performed by Jenny Evans, widow of the late Raymond Evans, who was one of the principal driving forces behind the new station. A plaque in memory of Ray has been placed inside the new building, a proper tribute to a man who worked so hard to secure its construction.

After the ceremony, it was announced that the new lifeboat, a Shannon class named William F Yates, would be launched, complete two circuits of the bay, and return to the station. We all trooped outside, at which point Storm Brian, which had been lurking in the periphery of the event, decided to make a grand entrance, delivering a quintessential weather bomb. The wind howled and torrential rain lashed down, soaking the besuited and behatted company and rendering attempts to erect umbrellas comically futile.

Into the maelstrom strode the crew, wholly undeterred. With remarkable efficiency, the William F Yates was launched into the crashing waves and swept at great speed around the bay, to the admiration of the spectators, who briefly forgot their drenched clothing.

Watching the launch in such adverse weather conditions made for an unforgettable memory. A placid sea and a balmy breeze would not have conveyed the scale of danger that the lifeboat’s crew will encounter in their future efforts to save human life.

The RNLI is funded entirely by public subscription. It receives no Government money, yet is a vital emergency service cherished by the people of this part of North Wales. The new lifeboat station, paid for by street collections and fundraising fish and chip suppers, is a justifiable source of pride.

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