12m Mersey Class Boat Kingdom of Fife

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1865 - 1888

LB Admiral Fitzroy

(1) Launching from the East Beach, Anstruther (before the East Pier was built)

Launches on Service: 13

Lives Saved: 18

Rear Admiral Robert Fitzroy (1805 - 1865) is perhaps best remembered for the voyage of the BEAGLE (240 tons) (1831-1836) in which he was accompanied by the naturalist Charles Darwin (of "Origin of the Species" fame).

Fitzroy subsequently became an M.P., and many of his ideas concerning the improvement of conditions in the merchant navy were incorporated in the Mercantile Marine act of 1850, the year in which he decided to retire from the sea.

During his service afloat he had always been interested in meteorology and weather prediction and when, in 1854, the government decided to set up a meteorological department of the Board of Trade, Admiral Fitzroy became its first superintendent.

He was a tireless worker who always had the welfare of seamen at heart - and the desire to safeguard their lives.

This doubtless motivated his innovative turn of mind in the field of weather prediction - the first man to draw synoptic charts for forecasting weather patterns - the first man in UK to realise the potential of the newly invented electric telegraph to transmit warnings of imminent storms - and in 1861 instituting a visual warning system of storm cones hoisted at conspicuous places in many ports and harbours.

He was often frustrated by the communication systems of the time - when the observations at sea, on which his forecasting depended, arrived too late to be of use.

It is said that his untimely death on 30th April, 1865, was the result of overwork and depression.

A man whom we might pause to remember for laying many foundations.

It is noteworthy  that the first lifeboat at Anstruther (1865-1888, a 40cwt, 32ft pulling & sailing vessel) was named in his memory.

Cost: 252 - defrayed from a 600 donation to the Institution by Miss Hannah Harvey, Cheltenham.


The original Service Board for RNLB Admiral Fitzroy is preserved and on display in the boathouse



With acknowledgments to:

(1) Oxford Companion to Ships & the Sea (ed. Kemp)

(2) ' Fitzroy of the 'Beagle ' (Mellersh)


1888 - 1904

LB Royal Stuart

(2) Circa 1890

Launches on Service: 5

Lives Saved: 0

The first Anstruther lifeboat, Admiral Fitzroy, served the station faithfully for over 20 years, launching on service 13 times and saving 18 lives during this period.

The Admiral Fitzroy was replaced in 1888 by a then more "modern" self-righting vessel - the Royal Stuart.

Despite this self-righting capability (a feature absent in the earlier boat) the Royal Stuart was nowhere near as well regarded by the Anstruther crews. There were a number of locally valid criticisms regarding her handling characteristics and her inability to beat to windward safely.

The boat measured 34ft in length with an 8ft beam and a depth of 4ft 2ins. She had a much deeper keel than her predecessor and three water ballast tanks which could be filled with sea water "in less than one minute, at the pleasure of the coxswain".

She was rowed by 10 oars and was rigged with two standing lug sails and one jib.

Total cost (including carriage and equipment): 377.

After a very difficult and almost disastrous service by the Royal Stuart in February, 1903, it was decided locally that representations be made to RNLI HQ to have the boat replaced. This happened just over a year later.


1904 - 1933

LB James & Mary Walker

(3) On exercise c.1930, Anstruther harbour

Launches on Service: 15

Lives Saved: 46

Considerable deliberation took place before a worthy successor was chosen for the Royal Stuart.

A public enquiry was held in Cellardyke Town Hall on 21st March, 1903, at which the whole matter of boat suitability and crew confidence therein was given a thorough airing.

A four-man deputation was duly appointed to visit a number of lifeboat stations with a remit to indicate preferences for a suitable replacement lifeboat for Anstruther.

Their choice, a non self-righting Watson Class lifeboat, was subsequently intimated to RNLI HQ, - together with some stipulations regarding the sailing rig and the suggestion to use sand plates for the hitherto narrow, cutting, carriage wheels which would now have to support extra weight.

The recommendation was accepted - to provide a new boat, and in addition - build a new shed (originally designed by W. T. Douglass, the Institution's then architect and engineer - the fabric of which which still exists and houses the present boat), improve the slipway, and incorporate sand plates on the launching carriage wheels ("Tipping's Plates").

The third Anstruther Lifeboat was of G. L. Watson design: 38ft long, 9ft 4ins beam, 4ft 8ins depth and rowed by 12 oars. She had one rig (lug sail and jib) together with a mizzen aft. Total displacement 6.1 tons. She cost 1018.

The James and Mary Walker arrived in Anstruther (by train!) on 30th July, 1904, the naming ceremony taking place on 10th September that year.

Here began a nearly 30 year partnership between boat and her first and second coxswains (William Sutherland and Martin Gardner - collectively becoming known as the "wooden boat with the iron men") during which time, over 15 services, some very difficult, exhausting and dangerous circumstances were encountered.

So this lifeboat served the Anstruther station well until her "retirement" in 1933. Oars and sail were slowly yielding to mechanical power systems.


1933 - 1950

LB Nellie & Charlie

(4) Leaving harbour on exercise (late 1940's), relatively calm conditions.

Launches on Service: 54

Lives Saved: 72

In the evening of Monday 24th April, 1933, a Liverpool Class motor lifeboat nosed her way into Anstruther harbour entrance.

The beginning of a new era was at hand. On stage enters a new breed of lifeboatman - the mechanic; in addition a caterpillar tractor now replaced horses for carriage operations.

It was, however, by no means curtains for the James and Mary Walker . She retired into the hands of an Aberdour hotelier and at Walter Reekie's boatyard in Anstruther, underwent metamorphosis from lifeboat to pleasure cruiser - the Cameronia.

A fitting testimonial to her original designer and builders.

This new lifeboat, the Nellie and Charlie, cost in all 3416 - out of a legacy of the then late Mr Neil Robertson, Pitlochry.

She was 35ft 6ins in length with a 10ft beam, a deepest draught of some 27ins and non-self-righting. Powered by a six cylinder high speed petrol engine, her maximum speed was just in excess of seven knots. Sails were not quite finished - the boat was fitted with a drop keel and carried a fore lug, jib and a mizzen, although it seems, the rig was never used in anger. Crew numbered from seven to 10. With crew and gear she weighed seven tons.

The vessel was officially named and dedicated at Anstruther harbour on Friday 21st July, 1933.

A radio receiver was introduced into the boat in 1940, and shortly after the war an MF radio telephone which (when it worked) enabled direct communication with HM Coastguard.

A number of notable rescues carried out by this boat (as with its predecessors and successors) are documented in the Station History (copies available at the lifeboat shop -  see News Page )


1950 - 1965

LB James & Ruby Jackson

(5) Leaving harbour with doctor aboard, bound Bell Rock lighthouse (13th December, 1955).

Bracing for the next wave.

Launches on Service: 63

Lives Saved: 45

The successor to the Nellie and Charlie lifeboat was also a Liverpool Class vessel, only this time with twin 20hp "Ferry" FKR3 diesel engines - one of the first boats to be given this type of power unit.

Again, the James and Ruby Jackson was a non self-righter, but nevertheless stable to 93 degrees (thankfully a feature not put to the test at Anstruther!). She was 35ft 6ins long, beam 10ft 8ins, draught about 33ins, and with crew and gear some 9 tons in weight. This time, the boat carried neither sails for auxiliary power, nor a mizzen.

Cost: 13,231 - this provided from the legacy of the then late Mr James Jackson, Falkland.

The James and Ruby Jackson arrived at Anstruther on 19th October, 1950, delivery from Cowes by coastal passage on this occasion. The Nellie and Charlie launched to the harbour mouth as a welcoming gesture, the new boat subsequently replacing her in the shed.

Once more, the retiring boat passed into private ownership. She was noted, still working, in the late 1970's.

Her long list of services include a diversity of casualties: trawlers, aircraft, local fishing boats, cabin cruisers, yachts, canoes, dinghies, etc.


1965 - 1991

LB The Doctors

(6) RNLB The Doctors (1985)

Launches on Service: 79

Lives Saved: 23

1965 marked the Anstruther station's 100th anniversary and the year that the station's sixth lifeboat entered service.

This boat, The Doctors, was a self-righter, a 37ft Oakley Class, designed by R.A. Oakley, whom along with Dr Norah Allan (who gifted the boat) was present on the pier in Wednesday 26th May, 1965, when she arrived after a four-and-a-half day passage from Littlehampton.

The 37ft Oakley type became the standard lifeboat for open beach launching with (although self-righting) better stability than its predecessors. The boat's beam was 11ft 6ins, draught 39ins aft, and her weight with crew and gear was 12.5 tons.

With wooden hull and iron bound keel the boat had 11 water-tight compartments and the design incorporated 222 aircases, as well as the self-righting water ballast transfer system.

The power was supplied by two Parsons "Porbeagle" diesel engines each rated at 52 h.p. These, combined with the 37ft displacement hull, produced a maximum speed of just over 8 kt.

The cost of The Doctors (over 30,000) was met from a 50,000 donation to the RNLI by Dr Norah Allan.

The official handing over and naming ceremony took place at the inner harbour, Anstruther, on Wednesday 28th July, 1965.

Originally this boat  had an open cockpit (as did the others, when there was one at all!). Later came an overhead canopy, and with the 1984/85 refit, an improved shelter and back screen at the steering position.

An echo sounder was installed in 1965, and 1978 saw provision of a radar set. It was during the lifetime of this boat that VHF communication facilities were incorporated along with radio direction finding equipment.

The Doctors finally departed Anstruther for Buckie on 15th March, 1991, and is presently on view in the "Buckie Drifter Heritage Centre".

A Rother Class lifeboat (RNLB Hampshire Rose) arrived at Anstruther on 10th March, 1991, and was stationed here until 22nd November that year, covering the period whilst major building work was undertaken on the shed and slipway, and before RNLB Kingdom of Fife (the station's seventh boat) became fully operational.


1991 -

LB Kingdom of Fife





(7) RNLB Kingdom of Fife at sea and post 2000 refit

To 31st December, 2001...

Launches on Service: 152

Over 50 people rescued in 2001

First Service: 14th September, 1991

The "Fast Carriage Lifeboat", the Mersey Class (one of which is our present boat Kingdom of Fife) is a new species of 38ft (12 metre) lifeboat built to replace the earlier carriage launched 37ft Oakley Class, and was designed and developed entirely by RNLI staff. The first of the class entered service in 1989.

The hull of the Anstruther boat is fibre reinforced composite - in the Mersey "FRC" represents an epoxy resin matrix reinforced with glass and Kevlar fibres - a main skin of 7-8mm, a 70mm core of medium density PVC foam and a thin inner skin of about 4mm. Deck, bulkheads, superstructure and all internals are of similar construction for strength, stiffness and light weight.

Beam 12ft 6ins, typical draught 39ins, displacement 14 tons, engines are twin Caterpillar 3208 turbo charged diesels each giving a shaft H.P. of about 280, cruising speed about 16 kt, fuel consumption 23.5 gallons per hour at cruising speed - for about 10 hours, six crew (seated, if necessary, in an enclosed heated cabin), two steering positions, state of the art  communication, radar and navigation systems with chart table, semi-planing hull design with trim tabs, survivor cabin, self-righting - all in all representing a total leap forward from previous thinking, giving the operational crew a sophisticated, speedy and efficient lifesaving vehicle.

The total cost of this boat: 455,000 (at that time) was met from a local appeal, the Cotton Trust, Dr Norah Allan, and from other legacies and gifts to the RNLI.

The naming ceremony (performed by HRH The Duchess of Kent) took place at Anstruther on Friday 29th May, 1992 , the boat having been on station since 19th August, 1991 after a coastal passage from Poole.

MW 11/1998

Illustrations from photographs by courtesy of:

Scottish Fisheries Museum  Archive (1) (3); Mr David Smith (4) (5); Dr A. Wattison (2) ;

(7)  Mr Tony Denton & Lesley Martin


This page is dedicated to the memory of all those who, down the years,

served the station in their own way, and who have now sailed on.

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