Bequest comes ‘out of the blue’ for lifeboat appeal

Sidmouth Lifeboat. Ref shs 4525-02-15SH. Photo Simon Horn

Sidmouth Lifeboat. Ref shs 4525-02-15SH. Photo Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

A £92,000 appeal to replace Sidmouth Lifeboat’s tractor got off to a flying start before it was even announced – when a substantial bequest arrived ‘out of the blue’.

The five-figure sum - more than half of the cost of the vehicle - was left by former sailor Mary Taylor.

Mrs Taylor was a life-long supporter of lifeboats and the new tractor will be named after her.

She bequeathed the cause a quarter of the value of her home in her will, but the independent charity’s fundraising efforts are far from over.

It still needs to cover the balance of the vehicle, run the service and maintain the boats and boathouse.

On behalf of the trustees, Sidmouth Lifeboat company secretary Kitrina Bishop said: “We planned an appeal to raise funds for the purchase of a replacement tractor, and also to highlight our continuing need for volunteers, both to man the boat and staff the boathouse.

“However, in mid-January we received a substantial bequest which covers over half of the purchase price of the replacement tractor, and so will take the pressure off our fundraising drive.”

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She added: “It [the cheque] came in an innocuous envelope.

“I opened it and stood there trembling. It’s one of the biggest bequests we’ve had, and it came out of the blue.

“It’s one of the pleasures of my job.”

The tractor will carry out the vital role of towing the boat and crew across the beach.

The vehicle is currently being modified and marinised to cope with repeated immersion in the sea and is expected to be delivered by April.

Tractor driver Guy Russell said: “The new tractor is absolutely crucial – we can’t run without it.

“The tractor we’ve got still does the job but due to the nature of the work it gets put under enormous pressure. The new one will make a huge difference.”

The current vehicle – a waterproofed Renault agricultural tractor – is set to be refurbished as a standby.

Mrs Taylor’s family said in a letter to the lifeboat: “We are very pleased to hear from you that you can put the bequest to such good use.

“The tractor is such a major purchase for you and we are delighted that we are able to make a useful contribution to the appeal.

“We are particularly touched at your suggestion of naming the new tractor in memory of Mary Taylor.”

Mrs Taylor died in 2008, leaving her Sidmouth home to her husband.

When he died in 2013, her family realised her wishes, sold the property and shared the proceeds with the lifeboat.

The independent rescue service costs £85,000-a-year in running costs, which is funded by donations, shop profits and dividends from investments, including money from bequests.

The capital cost of everything it owns is approximately £500,000. Kit needs to be replaced every decade. This means the charity, on average, has to raise another £50,000 every year. All of the money raised is used to keep the boat maintained and crew trained and equipped.

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