Port St Mary branch of the RNLI raised a record £31,214 for the institution last year – and this was in no small part down to the leadership of branch chairman Russell Armstrong, who last Wednesday stepped down.
He thanked the community for its generosity, he said: ‘I have had some wonderful lifeboat does and balls and raised very much thanks to the people in Port St Mary village, that provide money and are so generous ... the community spirit is fantastic.’
His great leadership, evident since he became chairman in 2002 (he joined the branch in 1999) was widely acknowledged at the annual general meeting, at which he announced he was stepping down.
‘You have been an outstanding chairman and a fantastic team player, leading Port St Mary station and fundraising teams through significant periods of change and development and helping to generate around £30,000 income each year for the RNLI,’ wrote Adele Fuller, community fundraising manager and Gareth Morrison, divisional operations manager for the RNLI.
‘Last year’s income being a record £31,214 across both teams. No mean feat for a small community on an island in the middle of the Irish Sea!’
‘Be it leading our outstanding annual lifeboat day, organising a packed calendar of events or campaigning for a new berth for the boat, you have attacked everything with enthusiasm and zeal. I know you always say “it’s a team effort”, but we really couldn’t do it without your generous and inspirational leadership.
‘Not many people can say they made a real difference in their lives but your dedication to the RNLI has helped save lives at sea – both on island and in the UK and you should be justly proud.’
Branch president Miles Walker added: ‘Some people come and live amongst us and carry on with their lives, others get involved and make a difference, Russell and Lynne [his wife] are one of those couples, they are prepared to give their energy, initiative and experience to everything they do here and they were deeply involved in the lifeboat.
‘He was a brilliant chairman who had the respect of everyone involved, from the crew to the volunteers. It was very positive leadership, he commanded respect so that people responded to him.;
Russell first became involved because he is a sailor. ‘The RNLI has done a wonderful job,’ he said, ‘I have never had to use them, but this is my way of supporting the crew and funds are needed to supply equipment to look after crew members so they can support the people who need them.
‘You never know, you can be on the Steam Packet going off island or on a plane, the lifeboat is often on stand by, all of us go off island, Port St Mary lifeboat could be very important to them.’
He has enjoyed his time, but said after 11 years in the role, it’s time to step aside. ‘As you get a little bit older, you look at life. I was unwell on holiday earlier this year and would like to spend more time with my grandchildren who live across. Also after 10 years you need new blood, fresh ideas, you become stale after a while.’
His time as chairman may be over, but he’s not out of the loop.
‘We need a permanent berth for the lifeboat at Port St Mary,’ he said. ‘I was assured last year we would get it in 2016, that’s been going on for a long time, I am sorry I will not be around for that. That’s what we really need for the safety of the crew, when they are called out, they walk along and waves are crashing over the breakwater and they climb down a metal ladder that is sheared to the harbour wall ... There is no alternative. It’s risky and concerning.
‘A permanent berth is the solution so they can walk onto the lifeboat in the worst conditions. There will be a major campaign towards fundraising for the berth next year, I will get involved in that, it’s essential.’
•A replacement chairman has yet to be found. Anyone interested should call David Kneen on 429722.