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Sidmouth Lifeboat founder honoured

11:30 21 January 2013

"Little" Al Phillips, who has been thanked for his 45 years' service

Archant

Sidmouth Lifeboat honoured a crewman with “seawater in his blood” for 45 years’ service on Saturday.

Crew and supporters gathered at Kennaway House to thank “Little” Al Phillips, one of the founding members of the charity.

The 67-year-old salesman still moonlights at the lifeboat centre, finding time to train, work behind the scenes, fundraise, and even take out the bins.

“I carry on out of duty, comradeship, a sense of purpose – I’ve got seawater in my blood,” he said. “Some people play golf, I do this.”

Brought up in Cornwall with views over the Atlantic, he said he has always had an affinity for the sea, and that keeps him going.

“On a wet, stormy night, we are the only ones who will go out to sea – it’s the same in towns up and down the coast,” he added.

After originally training as a lifeguard with fellow founder Keith Roberts, a PE teacher at Sidmouth College, they soon found there was greater demand for craft than swimmers.

The independent crew’s first craft was an inflatable, but their current boat cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, paid for by donations from residents and visitors.

Al said: “Every penny we are given stays in Sidmouth – give us 50 pence, that’s a phone call. Give us £250,000, that’s a new lifeboat.

“Over the years the equipment may have changed but the enthusiasm hasn’t.”

Al now works as a liaison officer, communicating with emergency services including the Coastguard and the RNLI.

Phil Shepperd, the new senior coxswain said: “He gives us a tremendous continuity, and has links to coastguard and lifeboat organisations in the South West that can only come with that length of service.

“His dedication is remarkable.”

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