WORK to build a brand new lifeboat station for the RNLI in Montrose is fast approaching completion.
The million pound new-build facility on Wharf Street will provide the charity rescue service with a greater range of facilities, easier access to the harbour and will be home to a brand new £1.5 million lifeboat, the Shannon class - the first of its kind to be stationed in Scotland.
Work on the new site began in September 2011 with the construction of a steel jetty and pontoon, with the foundations of the building itself being laid last summer, after Fife couple Hugh and Molly Brown left their entire £1 million legacy to the RNLI.
The Review was this week given a tour of the new station as the project enters its final stages.
Facilities at the new station will include a crew parking area, a souvenir outlet, changing area and a boathouse, removing the need for crew members to have to pass through the busy dock-side to the current station, often when time is of the essence.
Jim Strachan, volunteer lifeboat press officer for RNLI Montrose, said: “The new station should be getting handed over to the RNLI next month, but obviously it’s not ready to open yet. There’s just the finishing off to do.
“The whole layout is a lot better operationally wise, it’s in a much better location and there’s a changing area with direct access from the street. At the moment the crew have to go through the dock to get to the station and that creates all sorts of problems like getting run down by fork lifts. The current building is out in the sticks so the public don’t really see it, so the new building is better for the community as the public will see it as they pass.
“It’s good for people to see where their donations are going.”
Planning is already under way for the grand opening of the new station, and the RNLI is hoping to arrange for a visit from a Navy Sea King helicopter based at HMS Gannet in Prestwick to carry a demonstration exercise in the port area, although nothing is confirmed yet.
Scott Murray, Montrose coxswain, said the new station has been “a long time coming” and that the crew are all eager for it to become operational but pleased to see the progress that has been made with the building so far.
He said: “We don’t really have enough room down at the current site. There is a lot more crew training needed nowadays, more than when the current building was built in 1989. The new site will provide more space.”
Montrose RNLI currently operates both an inshore D class lifeboat and an all-weather Tyne class lifeboat. The new station will continue to accommodate an inshore lifeboat in addition to the arrival of the new Shannon-class vessel later this year. The Shannon-class was designed by the RNLI’s own naval architects to feature the latest technology and is the first all weather lifeboat to be powered by twin water jets instead of propellers.
Funding for the new vessel came in a bequest from Morayshire solicitor Ruth Grant Smith who died in December 2005 aged 99. The new lifeboat will be named after her late husband, Ian Grant Smith.
The couple, who lived in Grantown-on-Spey after Mr Smith retired from Brodie’s solicitors where he had been a partner, were keen supporters of the charity and held annual luncheon parties on New Year’s Day with the proceeds going to the RNLI.
As one of the oldest lifeboat stations in the country, the crew are keen to mark their long-standing relationship with the town. A weather vane from an earlier lifeboat station built in Montrose has been retained by the station long after the building was replaced, and the RNLI now intend for it to become a feature of the area surrounding the new building, mounting it on a plinth of the same stone used in the construction of the new station.”