Tom disembarks from lifeboat role

Tom Robertson, left, hands over the keys to Dave Smart

Tom Robertson, left, hands over the keys to Dave Smart

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AFTER almost 1400 launches and the saving of hundreds of lives over 40 years, Queensferry lifeboat stalwart Tom Robertson has decided to set sail for pastures new.

Tom, 72, has held the role of lifeboat operations manager at the Firth of Forth RNLI lifeboat station for half that time, but is now to stand down and pass the wheel to a colleague.

The facility is Scotland’s busiest inshore lifeboat station, launching 66 times and rescuing 163 people last year.

Tom’s role will be taken over by Dave Smart, 46, who has been a crew member for 25 years, acting as both helm and mechanic in that time.

However, his watchful gaze won’t be entirely lost as he remains chairman of the Lifeboat Management Group.

He said: “I’ve been on call 365 days a year for the last 40 years, having joined the service in 1973, so I’ll be glad to enjoy some uninterrupted free time.

“My wife, Elizabeth, and I have a property up north in Buckie and we hope to spend a lot more time there.

“I’ll miss the day-to-day operations and the cut and thrust, but the time has come to step aside for a younger colleague. Dave is a very capable guy and I’m sure he’ll do well in the role.

“It’s a great service which has saved many lives over the years and I’m glad to still be involved with it.”

Tom began his career as a lifeboat crewman before stepping up to helmsman, deputy launching authority and finally lifeboat operations manager.

He has performed in and overseen the launching of the lifeboat many times, to all sorts of scenarios, rescuing hundreds of people, animals and water crafts.

However, Tom’s biggest test came in moving from the old lifeboat station to the new one at Hawes Pier.

His service was recognised three years ago when he was awarded an MBE by Prince Charles.

Tom said: “I’m delighted with the new lifeboat station and boat, and feel I’m stepping down with the service in a good position with a great crew.”

His replacement, Mr Smart, said: “Tom is leaving behind some big shoes to be filled. The station has been open for about as long as I have been alive and I will only be the third lifeboat operations manager in its history. I am lucky to have a lively and keen crew of volunteers at the station – they’re so keen and enthusiastic that I sometimes have to tell them to slow down.

“All in all, it’s a challenging role that I am looking forward to getting to grips with.”

An RNLI spokesman said: “Tom will be sorely missed by all at the station, not that we think he will be keeping away for too long, as he will be keeping a watch on us all as chair of the Lifeboat Management Group, offering his expertise as we move forward.”