Gold badge for Brian, Exmouth RNLI veteran fundraiser
55 years following his rescue by Torbay lifeboat, Exmouth Lifeboat Fundraising Team volunteer Speaker, Brian Cole is set to receive an award for his dedication to the Institution. A Gold Badge will be presented to Brian at the charity’s AGM on 21 May.
On 23 August 1959, Brian and three friends from Bath Technical School were holidaying at a caravan park in Brixham. Brian, aged 17 fell over 200 feet whilst climbing up cliffs at St Mary’s Bay. He suffered severe head injuries and was recovered by the volunteers on board Torbay lifeboat Princess Alexandra of Kent. After the accident, Brian tells how he had written to thank the Torbay crew;
‘Their Mechanic at the time wrote back to say how glad he was to hear that I had recovered because when the lifeboat crew transferred me to ambulance, they thought I would not survive. I proved them wrong.’
Within months following the rescue, Brian started working with the Ministry of Labour in Bath where he was given responsibility for encouraging donations to the Civil Service Lifeboat Fund. Brian’s role in the charity developed over time. His first-hand experience meant he had first-hand understanding of the vital service of the Institution and discovered he could encourage public support by re-telling his personal story. He was offered a role as a Volunteer Presenter at Yeovil Lifeboat branch when the local speaker was ill, in March 1974.
In April 1977, Brian’s job transferred to Exeter and so he and his wife, Jill moved to live in Exmouth. The Speaker at Exmouth Lifeboat Guild had recently died and Brian enthusiastically took over the role. Jill joined Brian in organising the RNLI shop and shared responsibilities for ordering stock and organising volunteers to sell souvenirs.
In May 1993, the couple were jointly awarded a Statuette for their roles, but sadly this was after Jill died. Brian took on the voluntary position of Lifeboat Station Administrator in addition to attending community events to sell souvenirs. The following year he was named Citizen of the Year by Exmouth Rotary Club.
In June 1996, Brian married Beryl who rapidly shared his enthusiasm in fundraising for the charity that saves lives at sea. Beryl became Assistant Secretary and more recently, Secretary for the Exmouth Lifeboat Fundraising Team Committee. Together the couple visit community groups – Brian to speak about the work of the station’s volunteers and Beryl to sell souvenirs. Beryl on her own merits has been awarded both a bronze and silver badge for her commitment to the charity.
Each year as Governors, Brian and Beryl dutifully attend the Institution’s AGM at the Barbican in London. This year will be a most memorable visit as the charity’s Gold Badge will be presented to Brian on stage. Brian says;
‘I will feel most proud and honoured to accept this award on behalf of myself and all other volunteers representing Exmouth Lifeboat. Each year people come to our beautiful area on holiday and sometimes take chances which they might not normally take at home. It is the Crew volunteers who are ready at any time to rescue people in distress.
‘I owe my life to the bravery and dedication of crew volunteers. For that reason, I decided to spend as much of my spare time fundraising on behalf of the Institution, as an expression of gratitude.’