Sir William Hillary refused to sit by and watch people drown.
After witnessing the destruction of dozens of ships from his home on the Isle of Man, and getting involved in rescue attempts himself, Hillary had an idea. Like many of the best ideas it was born from the confines of a London tavern. He published a pamphlet detailing his plans for a lifeboat service manned by trained crews for the UK and Ireland. He appealed to the Navy, the government and other ‘eminent characters’ for help in forming ‘a national institution for the preservation of lives and property from shipwreck’. His idea fell on deaf ears.
He held his vision close and, undeterred, he rebranded his appeal for the more philanthropic members of London society. And this time it worked. His vision for a service dedicated to saving lives at sea became a reality on 4 March 1824. He called it the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, the name was changed to Royal National Lifeboat Institution in 1854.
From that day to this, its unpaid volunteers have performed countless acts of heroism. Putting their lives on the line to save others, these volunteer crews have saved hundreds of thousands of lives since the charity’s foundation in 1824.