Pilgrimage to Sir William’s home

FAMILY TIES: Cathryn Lewin, great-granddaughter of RNLI founder Sir William Hillary, visits Douglas Lifeboat Station during her trip from Australia

FAMILY TIES: Cathryn Lewin, great-granddaughter of RNLI founder Sir William Hillary, visits Douglas Lifeboat Station during her trip from Australia

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CATHRYN Lewin, the fifth great-granddaughter of RNLI founder Sir William Hillary, has made the long trip from Australia to trace her family roots in the Isle of Man.

RNLI volunteers at Douglas who crew the lifeboat, named Sir William Hillary in memory of the institution’s founder, welcomed Cathryn to the island.

The visit was planned after Douglas RNLI Lifeboat Station received an online inquiry from Cathryn’s father, Alan Richard-Preston, asking for information about Sir William.

This culminated in a brief visit to the Isle of Man by Cathryn, and her husband Daniel, who are taking a belated honeymoon in the UK.

The tour included Sir William’s former home, the Fort Anne, albeit now rebuilt, where Cains Advocates, regular supporters of Douglas RNLI, provided refreshments in the main boardroom which is named after Sir William.

The opportunity was taken while there to present Cains with the brass lifeboat which used to feature outside Hillary House on Finch Road for display in the boardroom.

After the Fort Anne it was a short journey down to Douglas Lifeboat Station itself where Cathryn and Daniel were met by other Douglas RNLI committee members and crew. They were given a tour of the station and shown around the Tyne class all-weather lifeboat Sir William Hillary by station mechanic Tony Radcliffe.

Cathryn signed the visitors’ book before leaving to continue their tour of the island with the intention of also visiting Peel RNLI Lifeboat Station, home of the Mersey class all-weather lifeboat Ruby Clery, named after a great-great granddaughter of Sir William.

After seeing the destruction of dozens of ships from his home in the island and getting involved in rescue attempts himself, Sir William called for a national rescue service.

He appealed to the Navy, the government and other ‘eminent characters’ for help in forming ‘a national institution for the preservation of lives and property from shipwreck’.

By 1808 he had moved to the Isle of Man. One of the earliest independent pre-RNLI lifeboat stations was established at Douglas.

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