Doctor McKee first joined Eastbourne lifeboats in 1976 a few years after taking up his new medical practice in Hampden Park, and joined the crew of the slipway launched Watson class ‘Charles Dibdin’. Since then he has served on four different classes of lifeboat leading up to the current hi-tech Tamar class vessel ‘Diamond Jubilee’ and has received both silver and gold awards from the RNLI to mark his loyalty and dedication. He has been instrumental in creating dedicated medical exercises and first aid procedures for the RNLI which now forms the basis of all casualty care training for lifeboat crewmen throughout the UK and Ireland.
The older class boats did not have the crew comforts of modern lifeboats and Colin has many tales of cold wet nights when casualty vessels were towed to Newhaven before Sovereign Harbour was built, a journey which sometimes took as long as eight hours to complete. One thing Colin says he definitely will not miss is climbing a rope ladder in rolling seas to board a freighter in order to attend an injured crewman. One particularly harrowing experience back in the 1990’s was when the lifeboat was called to the Indian vessel ‘Vishva Parage’ to treat a sick crewman who was suffering from Malaria. The ship was running without cargo so she was sitting particularly high in the water, due to the shape of the hull the first few feet of ladder was swinging in mid air. Colin decided the casualty should be transferred to hospital via the lifeboat and was speechless for the first time in many years when the freighter lowered a gangplank for their crewman who casually walked down and stepped aboard the lifeboat, a facility that Colin noted with some dismay hadn’t been offered to him when he first boarded the vessel risking life and limb, to say nothing of his dignity!
Colin says his fondest memories will be of the fantastic crews he has served with over the years and looks forward to continuing his work for Eastbourne lifeboats in his role as Chairman of the Lifeboat Management Group.
Picture shows Dr McKee surrounded by some of the crew receiving his framed letter of thanks from the RNLI Chief Executive Paul Bossier presented at Sunday’s crew meeting by Paul Metcalfe, Operations Manager of Eastbourne lifeboats.