RNLI’s ‘unsung heroes’ honoured for service

“We owe you a debt of gratitude …” Ed Harrison, new chairman of Sidmouth RNLI at the presentation to

“We owe you a debt of gratitude …” Ed Harrison, new chairman of Sidmouth RNLI at the presentation to John Govier together with committee members and guests Dave Nicoll, RNLI regional manager, Steve Hockings-Thompson, coxwain of the Exmouth Lifeboat and operations manager Kevin Riley. - Credit: Archant

Volunteer fundraisers for the RNLI were hailed as the unsung heroes of the lifesaving charity at a presentation in Sidmouth to honour the remarkable long service of three members of the town branch.

“We can’t do what we do without people like yourselves,” Dave Nicoll, the South West regional manager told the gathering. “In my eyes you are the unsung heroes. We go to sea and do the job. But we could not do that without your support.”

The branch minutes book, he said, reflected the importance of ‘key players’ at local level and really showed what the RNLI was all about.

“The history in that book shows the volunteer ethos is still there as strong as ever,” said Mr Nicoll, who motored up from Falmouth to attend the presentation at which tribute was paid to three members of the fundraising Sidmouth committee who have called time on their service. They are John Govier, chairman for 40 years, Andy Ridler, president for 31 and Keith Knight, secretary for 25.

Speaking of Mr Govier’s service, new chairman Ed Harrison said: “How do you follow a man like this? We owe John an enormous debt not just for the RNLI but also, with his wife, Su, for all their generous hospitality to us over the years.”

He recalled John’s membership harked back to the 1974 general election when Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe’s campaign hovercroft beached at Sidmouth on a wall of shingle and began to break up in the choppy sea as crowds watched.

Mr Govier helped get a rope aboard to stop the vessel being swept away and gave his share of the salvage money to the Sidmouth RNLI committee which, without more ado, promptly made him chairman almost before he knew it.

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“I took it as a great honour and I always have done,” said John as he looked back on 40 ‘wonderful years’ highlighted by fundraising events that have netted very many thousands of pounds for the cause, not least the famed annual wine and cheese party and fish auction at Knowle.

“They will never be repeated,” he said.

Mr Govier, who was presented with a compass in recognition of his service, paid a personal tribute to Andy Ridler, whom he succeeds as branch president, and to Keith Knight, succeeded as committee secretary by Richard Huntington.

“We all worked together and we have all been part of a big family over the years,” he said. “I think we have got a tremendous committee which can be proud of themselves, not only as loyal members of the RNLI, but also for what they have done for a very special institution in this country.”