Dominic and other members of the crew - Credit: RNLI/Paul Martin

Volunteering at RNLI Ilfracombe is a family affair

Joseph Bulmer

During Volunteer's Week this week, many charities get a chance to say thank you for the invaluable time given to them by volunteers. RNLI Ilfracombe is no exception.

Connected to the station, there is a team of nearly 100 volunteers – committee members, fundraisers, tractor drivers, shore crew, people who welcome visitors, people in publicity, water safety leaders, shop workers and, of course, the trained crew who go out on the lifeboats for rescues. Each has a role to play in ensuring that the vital rescue work can go ahead.

Dominic Langham is one of these volunteers who have worked his way through several different roles. And he is not unusual in that volunteering is a family affair with two generations of his family volunteering with the lifeboats.

Dominic in the station - Credit: RNLI/Gudrun Limbrick
Dominic in the station - Credit: RNLI/Gudrun Limbrick

This is a particularly special Volunteers’ Week for Dom as he recently passed his final assessment to become qualified boat crew. He has also recently added to the station's family of potential volunteers.

Dom joined the lifeboats at Ilfracombe when he was just 12 years old. His father, Ian, was already there and had undertaken several roles before qualifying as helm on the inshore lifeboat. Dom’s older brother, Ben, was also on the crew: "It just seemed natural that I would join the lifeboats too," said Dom. "I loved everything about being on the water. And hearing the pagers going off all the time was already a way of life in our house!"

Dom’s first role as a young boy was with the fundraising team. His friend, Ben Bengey – another of our volunteers who followed his father into the role - would dress up as Stormy Stan, the RNLI mascot, and Dom would guide him around events so that he didn’t bump into too much. They progressed onto being shore crew when they were older. This important role enables the lifeboats to launch and return safely.

Dom left the lifeboats to do an apprenticeship in carpentry but re-joined as soon as he could. He became a trainee member of the lifeboat crew.

As part of Dom’s final assessment to qualify as boat crew, he was on the all-weather lifeboat for a four hour stint. He wasn’t nervous about the processes and procedures he had to follow – he had worked hard, as had the team of volunteers around him, and he was confident he had it all in hand. But he had something else on his mind that evening. Dom’s first child was due to be born within only a matter of days and, with it being such a long time to be out at sea, it was a nerve-wracking time.

Dominic with Klaire and Izabella - Credit: RNLI/Dominic Langham
Dominic with Klaire and Izabella - Credit: RNLI/Dominic Langham

His girlfriend Klaire, although she nervously studies the harbour cam watching for his safe return each time he’s out on a shout, is very proud of him being on the lifeboats. When he suggested that he might be gone for four hours at such an ‘expectant’ time, she didn’t hesitate. Of course he should go!

Fortunately Baby Izabella turned out to be happy to wait for Daddy to return! She was born a few days later.

Leigh Hanks, Station Mechanic, watches the progress and development of all the volunteers at the station with pride: "It is great that Dom has been with us for so long, following in his father’s footsteps. He has worked hard and has done well. We are now looking forward to Izabella becoming the third generation volunteer here! I’d like to thank all our volunteers, whether they are on the boats, on the shore, or in the office or shop. They each contribute to the running of our station and the rescue work that we are able to do."