A Wirral MP has praised the “intense bravery and dedication” of RNLI volunteers and staff as the lifesaving charity celebrates it 200th anniversary. 

Margaret Greenwood was speaking in a debate in parliament on the bicentenary of the RNLI, which was founded in 1824.

During the event, the Member of Parliament for Wirral West said she was “honoured” to represent a constituency which has two RNLI lifeboat stations, one in Hoylake and the other in West Kirby.

The latest figures show that RNLI lifeboat crews across the UK and Ireland launched more than 9,000 times in 2022, aiding 16,476 people and saving 389 lives.

The first lifeboat station in Hoylake was founded in 1803, before the RNLI was established.

Margaret Greenwood highlighted a story, which is recounted in a book by Nicholas Leach called “Hoylake and West Kirby Lifeboats: An Illustrated History”, where, in 1810, eight men of a crew of 10 were drowned as they tried to assist the ship Traveller.

In 2010, to mark 200 years since that disaster, a memorial to those lost was unveiled outside the RNLI lifeboat station in Hoylake, and due respect was afforded by today’s lifeboat crews, members of the local community and descendants of those who lost their lives.

In 2014, a new 13-metre, state-of-the-art Shannon lifeboat was stationed at Hoylake, where it remains today. The smaller West Kirby inshore lifeboats were first introduced in the 1960s.

During the debate, Margaret Greenwood also spoke of some of the stories of rescues that she has heard from John Curry, Chair of the Hoylake and West Kirby RNLI management group.

The Wirral West MP said that one such story left a powerful image of a hand reaching out from the waves. She described it as “an image of a drowning man, woman or child, in the very last moments while rescue is still possible,” and said that “those who will put themselves at risk to reach out and grasp such a hand before it sinks beneath the waves deserve all our thanks and tributes.”

Speaking after the debate, Margaret Greenwood MP added: “I was pleased to have the opportunity to pay tribute to the outstanding courage of RNLI volunteers and highlight the vitally important work that goes on at Hoylake and West Kirby RNLI lifeboat stations.

“The RNLI is an extraordinary organisation that could not operate without the outstanding bravery and selflessness of those involved, nor without the kindness of its supporters who provide 94% of the charity’s income through donations.

“RNLI crews, the vast majority of whom are volunteers, put their lives at risk to save others. They are prepared to go out in all weathers to rescue people, whether they are in yachts, dinghies, canoes or large commercial vessels or have been caught by the tide when walking out to Hilbre Island..

“Being involved in a lifeboat station is a way of life. Many families have been involved with the RNLI for decades, with expertise handed down through the generations.

“The stories of rescues are truly heroic. There is a long tradition of such courage in west Wirral, of which local people are rightly proud.

“This year we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the founding of the RNLI. Hoylake and West Kirby lifeboat stations play a very important part in that history and I am very pleased that this has been recognised in parliament.”