Liam Murphy reports on a fundraising appeal for the service to whom countless people owe a debt of gratitude

THE crew and support-ers of Hoylake RNLI lifeboat will tonight launch an historic £2m appeal to help fund their new lifeboat station and lifeboat.

The aim is to raise the money by the end of 2009 to help provide Hoylake lifeboat crew with the facilities and equipment they need to carry on saving lives at sea.

Hoylake’s present station, built in 1899, is too small and cannot be further extended to house the latest generation of lifeboat.

The crew, who except for a mechanic are all volunteers with other jobs and commitments, are proud of the history of the station which has been saving lives for more than two centuries.

Hoylake RNLI coxswain Dave Whiteley said the appeal launch would be an important day in the history of Hoylake lifeboat station and the new station would make a big difference to his crew.

He added: “Volunteer lifeboat crews from Hoylake have been saving lives off this coastline for more than 200 years and hopefully will carry on doing so for the next 200 years.

“However, we desperately need a new lifeboat station that will meet the demands of 21st- century life-saving.

“At the moment, the crew are based in a cramped, ageing building designed to house 19th- century rowing lifeboats.

“We don’t have proper training and crew facilities and sometimes our kit doesn’t dry out properly between shouts.

“The people of this area have always been wonderfully supportive of the RNLI and Hoylake lifeboat station and I am sure they will all get behind this appeal, which will help provide my dedicated crew with the facilities they deserve.”

Although the RNLI is a registered charity that continues to rely on voluntary contributions and legacies for its income and receives no Government funding, its annual running costs are around £120m.

The volunteer crews provide a 24-hour search and rescue service every day of the year as far out as 100 nautical miles from the coast.

The appeal will combine community fundraising with requests for support from trusts, the business community and other donors.

A glossy calendar has been produced with pictures of the crew in action.

The lifeboat station on Hoylake promenade has already been enlarged, and the Mersey class boat Lady of Hilbre only just squeezes inside.

A NEW station will also allow a faster response from the crew who can already hit the water within minutes of being called out.

At present, the lifeboat and launching tractor are housed in separate buildings. The crew have to get the tractor out and link it up to the boat before pulling it out to the water’s edge.

The new boathouse will enable the lifeboat and tractor to be housed together, hooked-up and ready for immediate launch, saving precious time in a rescue.

The boathouse will also include training facilities, a mechanics workshop, crew room, changing room with drying area and showers.

The RNLI also say that a new station is needed to house the next generation of lifeboat.

Work on the new station has just started an d is expected to be completed by the end of next year, but the appeal will also part-fund the new lifeboat.

Hoylake’s 16-knot Lady of Hilbre will soon be 20 years old and will need replacing with the next generation of lifeboat.

Appeal chairman Anthony Hannay, a member of the RNLI Council, said: “Hoylake lifeboat has been served by many people in its 204-year history, often with men from several generations of the same families.

“This appeal will provide the 21st-century equipment and facilities that the present and future generations need and deserve and will ensure that all the risks they take are minimised.

“The people of the north of England have always been marvellously generous to us and I am sure we can rely on the local community of Merseyside with all its maritime background to help us reach our £2m target.

“Everyone can get involved, from schoolchildren to large companies and I hope everyone will do their bit to help the RNLI in Hoylake to complete this ambitious and historic project.”

Tonight, members of the crew and lifeboat station supporters will be joined at the lifeboat station by Lord Lieutenant of Merseyside Dame Lorna Muirhead, chairman of the appeal Anthony Hannay and 100 guests to officially launch the appeal.

TO CONTRIBUTE to the appeal, please call 0845 650 3999, log on to appeal or send a donation to RNLI Hoylake Appeal, Admail 4049, Hoylake, CH47 1AA.