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RNLI Thurso Coxswain retires after almost half a century of service

24th October 2017

Photograph of RNLI Thurso Coxswain retires after almost half a century of service

Bill ‘Wing' Munro the Coxswain for the RNLI Thurso lifeboat will retire on Thursday 26th October having served at the station for almost 48 years.

Wing Munro, 65, has served on the crew of the Thurso lifeboat for 47 years, 9 months and as full-time Coxswain for just under 16 years. As Coxswain Wing has overseen countless shouts and been involved in some of most noteworthy rescues undertaken by Thurso Lifeboat Station's volunteer crew, he has also received multiple awards from the Institution.

One of Wing's most memorable shouts is the September 1997 rescue of the 50 foot Aztec scallop boat which had fouled its propeller in Loch Eriboll (a sea loch west of Thurso) Whilst on route to the rescue the Thurso lifeboat, The Queen Mother, lost one of its engines but continued to the aid of the Aztec’s crew. Under Wing’s command the crew successfully reached the Aztec, in extremely rough conditions, and towed her safely back to Scrabster Harbour. In recognition of his bravery and the bravery of his volunteer crew Wing received the RNLI Thanks of the Institution on Vellum.

In July 2011 Wing and his volunteer crew rescued twelve tourists from the rocks of the Island of Stroma, in the Pentland Firth, after the tour boat they were travelling in became stricken. The six military personnel on-board plus their wives decided to abandon ship. Recounting the story Wing attributes the successful rescue of the group to their military training and survival knowledge. In a letter to the RNLI after the event one of those rescued said he couldn’t: "praise highly enough the bravery, professionalism and manner in which your team went about extracting us from the rocks... It probably wasn’t the most difficult rescue Wing’s crew has carried out, but to us every man was a hero of enormous proportions and we will be eternally indebted".

One of Wing’s more recent rescues was to a scallop diver, in May 2017, who Wing describes as "very lucky" to be alive. The diver spent 11 hours in the water before signalling to a fishing boat and then being picked up by the Thurso RNLI Severn class lifeboat.

Another incident that particularly sticks in Wing’s mind is the 48 hour search for the Shearwater, in March 1984, whose crew were all friends of the lifeboat crew. Tragically the Shearwater was lost and the lifeboat crew’s job changed from a rescue to a recovery mission. Only two of the three crew members’ bodies were recovered.

Wing’s memories of rescues and recoveries reflect the collective memory of the Thurso coastal community. The successes and tragedies experienced by the lifeboat’s crew are often felt in homes throughout the area.

With 48 years of service Wing is one of the RNLI’s longest standing crew members.

Speaking about Wing’s service to the Institution, RNLI Chief Executive, Paul Boissier said:“On behalf of the RNLI I would like to give a heartfelt thanks to Wing Munro for almost half a century of service to the RNLI. Wing’s unwavering support has seen him attend hundreds of call outs during this time, ultimately making a real difference to people’s lives. This huge amount of hard work and loyalty is both inspiring and humbling and the institution is incredibly grateful for such commitment to saving lives at sea.”

Coxswain Wing Munro aboard RNLI lifeboat The Taylors, with Prince Charles Severn Class

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