RNLI shopkeeper to retire after 40 years

Nan Letton worked outdoors in all weathers. Picture: Jane Barlow
Nan Letton worked outdoors in all weathers. Picture: Jane Barlow
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Scotland’s busiest inshore lifeboat station is all at sea – after one of its longest serving volunteers retired aged just 91 years old.

Stalwart shopkeeper Nan Letton braved all weathers in her 38-year post selling gifts for the RNLI’s Queensferry Lifeboat Fundraising Branch.

The outpost proved one of the most successful in the country – despite the ‘shop’ taking the form of an outdoor trolley for the best part of four decades.

Nan began volunteering in 1975, when the RNLI Queensferry Lifeboat Station was the old ticket office used by the ferries that ran between North and South Queensferry before the opening of the Forth Road Bridge.

At that time she carried all the goods – including ­souvenirs, key rings and Christmas cards – from her home to the lifeboat station.

Nan, who only retired after having suffered a broken hip, said: “When I first moved to South Queensferry from the West End, I was walking along the street one day and I spoke to the girls from the branch, they were looking for ­volunteers so I said I was happy to help out.”

In 1989, a new lifeboat ­station was built at Hawes Pier, but even then there was only room for a table which was pulled out in front of the lifeboat, leaving Nan and her colleagues exposed to the ­elements.

Nan said: “It was in front of the lifeboat and if there was a shout, we just had to jump to it and the whole thing would have to be moved. Moving it was quite hard work, but being with the branch was something I really enjoyed being a part of.

“In bad weather it could be horrendous, particularly in the winter. We were sitting out a couple of years ago when the snow was very bad and it was minus three, but we came out all the same.”

In 2011 The Duke of Kent, president of the RNLI, presented Nan and her colleagues with the RNLI’s Retail Award.

The fundraisers worked seven days a week – sometimes 12 hours a day, when there was demand from ferry passengers.

And their efforts were recognised after the shop turnover soared from £13,500 in 2002 to £30,000 in 2010, ­ensuring Queensferry had the third-highest turnover among the RNLI Scotland’s 22 shops.Last year, a purpose-built RNLI Queensferry Lifeboat Station was built featuring a dedicated shop area, but Nan was only been able to ­appreciate it for a short while before her retirement.

Richard Smith, spokesman for the RNLI Scotland, said: “The RNLI is enormously grateful to Nan for her tremendous support and her enthusiasm in selling items for the RNLI for almost 40 years.

“We are indebted to her for her loyal service and wish her well in her retirement.”

Queensferry Lifeboat Station is called out to around 70 ­incidents a year, saving ­countless lives.

Busiest station

ESTABLISHED in 1968 in an old ticket office, Queensferry Lifeboat has grown into Scotland’s busiest inshore lifeboat station.

In 1989 it was replaced by a specially built station home to four lifeboats, the last of which was “The Donald and Ethel Macrae”.

A new station which allows the lifeboat to launch straight down the pier, saving vital minutes, was opened last year.