Hundreds of people gathered outside Dart Lifeboat Station last Saturday afternoon in glorious sunshine to watch the official naming ceremony for Dart RNLI’s new Atlantic 85 class lifeboat Frank C Samworth.

The lifeboat has been funded thanks to a generous legacy from a well-loved member of the station, Jill Samworth. Jill’s RNLI jacket was displayed pride of place in front of the new lifeboat during Saturday’s ceremony, and several fond stories were recounted by those who knew and loved her.

Invited guests gathered, alongside volunteer crew and their families, and many members of the public also congregated on Coronation Park to watch the occasion.

Commodore Jake Moores OBE DL RN, Chair of the Dart RNLI Lifeboat Management Group, welcomed guests and opened the proceedings.

Jill’s representative Peter Inman, then handed the lifeboat into the care of the RNLI and this was accepted by Air Vice-Marshal (ret’d) Aroop Mozumder CB, Medical Director of the RNLI, handed it into the care of Dart Lifeboat Station.

Dart RNLI volunteer Lifeboat Operations Manager Michael Bryant-Mole, Lifeboat Operations Manager accepted the lifeboat on behalf of Dart Lifeboat Station.

Then followed a service of dedication by the Reverend Andrew Langley, before Jill’s sister Sue Groves officially named the lifeboat.

The service was brought to a close with a vote of thanks delivered by Nigel Jones, Area Lifesaving Manager. He said: ‘Thanks must first to go to Jill Samworth, known as Auntie Jill, for her amazing gift of this incredible lifesaving asset – the waters around the River Dart are much safer now thanks to her selfless generosity and love for ‘her boys’.

‘I would also like to thank all those involved with, and those who go to such great lengths to support Dart Lifeboat Station, especially the families of volunteers, who’s day-to-day peaceful lives are often interrupted by the demands of lifeboat training sessions or the pager going off at the most inopportune time. The RNLI and local community are so very fortunate to be able to count on you all for your continued dedication, courage and selflessness in the pursuit of saving lives at sea.’

After the event, tea and refreshments were served in the lifeboat station.

Jill, known as Auntie Jill by the station, first came to Dart Lifeboat Station one Sunday morning more than 10 years ago. She was a petite, timid lady and was shown around the station by a volunteer. Jill returned the following Sunday and handed in an envelope with a substantial donation inside.

Thereafter, as Sunday was Dart RNLI’s training day, she would return each and every week, travelling by taxi from her home 10 miles away in Thurlestone and soon became a firm favourite with the crew. In time she grew in confidence and cheerfulness, attributed by her family to the association she developed with the station, and always arrived with cooked sausages for the crew and an expensive tin of biscuits for ‘her boys’.

She was always deeply concerned for the crew and their families. The Christmas party for the crew’s children and the Easter Egg Hunt presents and prizes were provided by her. She never had any children of her own and delighted in adopting the crew.

She represented the RNLI with pride and even came to serve on the fundraising committee. In the last few years as she became frailer, two of our crew would travel to her home to help out, take her for a coffee or a trip out.

Jill died in January 2017, and in her will left an incredibly generous sum to Dart RNLI with a stipulation that the money was to be used towards the purchase of a new lifeboat and equipment for the crew

Dart RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager, Michael Bryant-Mole, said: ‘Dart RNLI is delighted with the arrival of this new B class lifeboat. The Atlantic 85 is the third generation B class lifeboat to be built, capable of speeds up to 35 knots. Fast, manoeuvrable, agile and versatile, the Atlantic 85 has all the qualities of its predecessors, and more.

“It is ideally suited to rescues close to the shore. Yet, it can also withstand challenging conditions in the open sea, making it an exemplary search and rescue craft.

‘The communities around Dartmouth and South Hams will be safer thanks to Auntie Jill - we love her.’