Llandudno’s lifeboat service began in 1861, with a boathouse near the railway station. The first coxswain, Hugh Jones, was a Great Orme copper miner. To call him to the lifeboat, his daughter would run to the mine and summon him by banging a stone against pipework at the top of the shaft. The pipes were for pumping water from the mines. The first lifeboat was a rowing boat named Sister's Memorial, launched using horses (pictured below).
The second coxswain, Edward Jones, died in 1887 from a cold he probably caught during the launch of the station’s new lifeboat. Two helpers, Robert Williams and Arthur Whalley, died in the 1890s after falling under the wheels of the carriage which took the lifeboat between the station and sea.
In 1903 a new boathouse was built in Lloyd Street, on a site chosen to facilitate the lifeboat’s launch from either the north or west shores of Llandudno. Five years later crew member John Williams died after severe exposure during a rescue.
Llandudno received its first motor lifeboat in 1933 and its first inshore lifeboat, a D Class boat, in 1965.
The Lloyd Street boathouse was modified in 1991 for the new all-weather Mersey Class lifeboat Andy Pearce (pictured above), which is hauled to the shore by a tractor as required.
Llandudno’s current inshore lifeboat is D Class lifeboat William Robert Saunderson. This is towed by a Land Rover to whichever launching point on the local coastline is to be utilised for the incident in question.
The lifeboat service in the UK is provided not by government but by the RNLI, a charity which relies on donations from the public. Since it was established in 1824, the RNLI is estimated to have saved c.140,000 lives. It employs some crew members but most, 40,000 in total, are volunteers who leave their work, families or beds whenever their lifeboat is needed.
FOOTNOTES: More Llandudno rescues
- 1919 - Bronze Medal for coxswain John Owen for rescuing two people from the schooner Ada Mary
- 1939 - HM Submarine Thetis sank near Moelfre with the loss of 99 lives. Only four crew survived. Llandudno lifeboat took a doctor to a ship assisting the salvage operation
- 1968 – Llandudno lifeboat fetched urgent insulin supplies when a group of wealthy American tourists was stuck on the powerless St Trillo as it drifted towards the Little Orme. Click here for this story.
- 1974 - The Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum to helmsman Robert Jones for the rescue of a person from a sailing dinghy grounded at the Little Orme
- 1990 – A Special Framed Certificate presented to the station for services during the Towyn floods (click here for this story). The crew helped more than 200 people to safety
- 1997 - A Framed Letter of Thanks to Craig Roberts, duty officer at the Conwy Marina office, for prompt action to rescue two people in the water
- 2012 - Llandudno lifeboat stood by in heavy seas when the coastal freighter MV Carrier was dashed against the shore at Llanddulas. Click here for this story