Sidmouth Lifeboat leads tributes to Little Al’s lifesaving legacy
PUBLISHED: 10:03 13 July 2018 | UPDATED: 10:12 13 July 2018
A ‘driving force’ and founder of Sidmouth Lifeboat has been remembered this week for his part setting up lifesaving provisions in the town when it had none.
Tributes have been paid to Alan Phillips, known affectionately as ‘little Al’, who died last week at the age of 73.
The keen surfer was instrumental in paving the way for the town’s independent lifeboat by using his lifeguard training to set up a voluntary surf lifesaving group.
The father-of-three worked with other keen surfers to run beach patrols at the weekend and in summer around Jacobs Ladder – patrols that soon expanded rapidly to form the lifeboat service as it is known today.
Guy Russell, senior coxswain for Sidmouth Lifeboat, said the team would strive to uphold the service in honour of the man, who was the ‘backbone’ of the station.
Guy said: “He was a legend, an epic surfer in his day and that passion led him to become a lifeguard and coastguard; he was the driving force behind the town’s lifeboat.
“Al did so much behind the scenes. In the coastguard world, when he walked into a room they all stood up for him.
“Who knows how many people he saved. He just wanted to help people.
“Lifeboats and their crews face many challenges and we will continue to work hard as a team to uphold our awesome service to rescue people in need in honour of this man.”
As well as an active member of Sidmouth Lifeboat until his death, Alan was a part of Beer Coastguard for 37 years.
During his time he received a letter from the chief coastguard after responding to a faint mayday on the radio.
Terry Hoare, stations manager for Beer coastguard, said: “He did a mayday relay to alert the ops room; those people were lucky, it turned out Alan was the only person to hear that mayday.
“He was always reliable, his local knowledge of coasts was invaluable.
“He was very helpful to the younger ones coming into the team, he was always helping.
“Since he retired from the team he would be found at Sidmouth boat house ready with tea and biscuits whenever we had a shout at Sidmouth.”