The start of a worldwide institution’s 200th anniversary year has been officially recognised in the island’s capital.

Mayor of Douglas, Councillor Natalie Byron-Teare hosted senior officials of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) in the council chamber ahead of its annual service at St George’s Church on Sunday to launch a year of events commemorating the milestone.

They included Mark Dowie, the CEO of the RNLI, Robin Middleton the Vice-President of the RNLI, and several regional and district managers of the charity. They were joined by Lieutenant Governor Sir John Lorimer and Lady Lorimer and Deputy Chief Minister Jane Poole-Wilson.

Dedicated to saving lives at sea with a 24-hour search and rescue service, the Isle of Man is the birthplace of the RNLI which was founded by Sir William Hillary in 1824.

As a Douglas resident, he saw first-hand the treacherous nature of the sea, witnessing dozens of shipwrecks around the Manx coast and saved many lives with the help of locals.

Ever since, the island – which is also base to the first ever lifeboat station in the British Isles – has had an inextricable link to saving lives at sea.

In 2022, island lifeboat crews went to sea on numerous occasions and there were 49 call-outs to those in distress, with five lives saved. Currently, there are around 200 volunteers island-wide and, on average, each of the crew spend 30-40 hours at sea between training and rescues.

The mayor said it was important to acknowledge the invaluable work of the charity in both Manx waters and further afield.

‘It really was a pleasure to welcome Mark Dowie and colleagues into the Mayor’s Parlour and Council Chamber at the start of such a landmark year and, specifically, in Douglas where it all began and where the origins of the charity were formed,’ she said.

‘The rich nautical heritage of the Island cannot be better summed up than the lifesaving and fundraising work the RNLI carries out in Manx seas and the countless hours given by dedicated volunteer lifeboat crews in our Island community.’

Councillor Peter Washington, who is the Lifeboat Operations Manager for Douglas and a member of the IOM200 organising committee which is arranging events to mark the RNLI’s 200th anniversary in the island, was among those who attended the service and the reception.

‘The island’s links with the RNLI are well known, as is the level of commitment from a dedicated bunch of volunteers across the Isle of Man’s five lifeboat stations.

‘At such a significant time in its history and where Sir William Hillary’s vision for a dedicated service became a reality, it was a fitting start to the RNLI’s bicentenary year.’

Following the Church Service, Councillor Washington, in his role as Lifeboat Operations Manager, was presented with the RNLI long service medal for two decades of service.