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Marine / Newly appointed Aith lifeboat coxswain looks forward to the challenge

Newly appointed Aith lifeboat coxswain John Roberson said it was the trust from the rest of the crew that made him apply for the job. Photo: RNLI

LOCAL man John Robertson has been appointed new coxswain of the Aith lifeboat, the most northerly in the country.

The 31-year-old father of two is being promoted from Charles Lidbury’s full-time engineer to lead the team at the RNLI lifeboat station on Shetland’s westside.

He replaces Adam James, who has now moved to the north of England to take up a job as coxswain with the RNLI’s operations on the river Humber near Hull.

John was selected for promotion by the RNLI after formal assessments and interviews. He has taken on the role under supervision until his final training is completed in the coming months.

He said it was the trust and encouragement from the crew that made him apply for the coxswain job.

“Time is of the essence whenever we launch the RNLI Charles Lidbury, as we try to launch our lifeboat within seven minutes of our pagers going off,” he said.

“That can be quite a tie. I’ll tend not to go any further away than Bixter, unless cover has been pre-arranged.

Aith lifeboat coxswain John Robertson with his wife Kayla and their two children Harper, aged 3, and Fraser, eight months. Photo: RNLI

“But this will be a good job for me and my family, and allow me to be home about – pager depending – in between all the paperwork and maintenance that comes with running a lifeboat station.”

In his six and half years as the lifeboat’s mechanic John has already experienced some “notable incidents at sea”.

John’s first ever ‘shout’ was to the fatal sinking of the scallop boat Diamond near the West Burrafirth pier in March 2014, when RNLI volunteers managed to rescue a surviving crew member from the water.

He was also part of the team that attended the rescue of the Edward Henry, the crab fishing boat that was hit by a large wave west of Sumburgh in March 2017 – smashing wheelhouse windows and knocking out engines and electronics.

John and the rest of the lifeboat crew spent around 14 hours at sea, escorting the damaged vessel to safety through force nine winds and heavy seas.

“Aith is a relatively quiet station, but our call-outs tend to be serious, lengthy and often in testing weather conditions,” the coxswain added.

“We need to work well as a team in order to save lives at sea – and I’m really looking forward to stepping up and leading that team of committed local volunteers.”

Originally from Voe, John has a family connection to the lifeboat through his wife Kayla.

Her grandfather Frank Johnston served as lifeboat mechanic for many years, and attended the famous rescue of the crew of the Juniper trawler in February 1967.