Hayling lifeboatman retires from RNLI after 34 years service

LIFESAVER Nigel Roper is retiring after 34 years of service
LIFESAVER Nigel Roper is retiring after 34 years of service
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HE’S been involved in more than 2,300 lifeboat launches and helped to save more than 460 lives.

But after 34 years at Hayling lifeboat station, Nigel Roper has finally decided to hand over his pager.

Without being paid a penny, Mr Roper, now 65, has been on-call for 365 days every year, 24 hours a day.

The retired surveyor said it was now time to hand over the responsibility of operations manager to someone younger.

‘I could have retired at 70,’ said Mr Roper, a dad-of-two, of Selsmore Avenue, Hayling Island.

‘But I am 65 and I have spent half of my life at the station and I just thought it was time to pass on my pager and responsibility to a younger person. It’s 24/7, 52 weeks of the year and Hayling is a busy station.

‘As a consequence, pagers go off at all times of the day and night, and without putting too fine a point on it, it’s a struggle to maintain your ordinary life when you have been up all night on a shout!’

Mr Roper has never officially been part of the crew on the boats. He started his career launching the boats from Sandy Point, as well as helping to train other crew members.

Years ago, people who wore glasses were not able to be crew, although the rules have now changed.

Mr Roper said: ‘I have worn glasses all my life. By the time the policies were changed I had become the operations manager.

‘By that time it was too late as I had moved to higher management. My role was basically everything. Managing the station, and making sure the lifeboats can be launched 52 weeks of the year, 24 hours a day.’

He said one of the highlights of his career had been October 25, 1992, when Hayling RNLI saved the lives of 17 people on board the 72ft ketch Donald Searle, whose engine broke down in the middle of a huge storm.

Two crew members won the silver medal for gallantry.

‘It was a pretty hairy situation,’ said Mr Roper. ‘We all felt rather proud. Without our help, lives would have been lost.’

Mr Roper has also been involved in two station rebuilds, including the latest in 2007 when £750,000 was pumped into building a new boat hall and education centre.

Mr Roper said: ‘It’s quite a record. But my main claim to fame is throughout that time, lifeboats have never failed to respond to the call for a lifeboat. In that same time, none of our crew members has been seriously injured or lost their lives.’

Mr Roper plans to spend his time now promoting Chichester Harbour as the vice-chairman of conservation group Friends of Chichester Harbour.