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Brighton RNLI chair retires after 46 years of volunteering

Brighton RNLI’s longest serving volunteer is retiring after 46 years of service.

Malcolm Harvey joined the first ever crew at Brighton Marina lifeboat station just after it was built in 1978.

For two years before this, he trained with Newhaven RNLI to ensure he was ready to be on crew as soon as the station was completed.

Malcolm was the crew mechanic and served as a helm for 14 years until 1990 when he turned 50 and had to step down.

Malcolm said: ‘Things were pretty different then, while the lifeboat station building was being completed we kept our kits first in a horsebox then in a two wheel caravan which had been donated – we never could get the smell of horses out of our kit!

Malcolm early in his career with the RNLI crew at Brighton Marina (far right)

‘There were five suits between us and we ranged from 5ft 7 to more than 6ft tall so it led to some pretty funny looking crew members.’

During his time on the crew Malcolm received recognition from the RNLI for saving 78 lives.

He remembers one of his final shouts, saving a family of four plus a spaniel, who had become cut off by the tide in Saltdean. The children would not leave until the dog was safe and the parents would not leave until the children were, meaning Malcolm had to scramble onto the rocks to first grab the family pet – who promptly jumped back into the water!

Malcolm said: ‘There aren’t many people out there who can say someone is alive because of a direct result of your actions.

‘We have our emergency services but I think life boating comes up pretty high on the list of lifesavers.

‘I’ll always be proud of my time with the RNLI it has meant a great deal to me particularly the friendships and camaraderie at the station.’

Although disappointed to no longer be on the crew, in 1990 Malcolm was offered a new challenge at the station – the position of Deputy Launch Authority.

Malcolm served as DLA for a further 20 years – a role in which he was responsible for authorising the launch of the station’s lifeboat when it was called into action.

In 2010 he turned 70 and could no longer be DLA – but found a new calling as the station Chairman until his retirement this year.

Malcolm was this year invited to Hampton Court Palace to receive a long service award from the RNLI for his years of volunteering.

Lifeboat operations manager at Brighton Roger Cohen MBE said: ‘We are all so grateful for Malcolm’s years of service, we have learnt so much from his experience, tenacity and resilience.

‘He really embodies the values of what the RNLI is all about with his selfless and courageous nature, he should feel proud of all he has achieved over the years.’

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