Two centuries of lifesaving history reflected in new range of RNLI products

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) marks its 200th anniversary in March 2024. As part of this momentous occasion, the charity – the oldest national lifesaving organisation in the world – is releasing a new range of products designed to celebrate key moments in its rich 200 year history.

Since the earliest days of the RNLI, volunteers have come together to sell items to raise vital funds – a tradition that continues today in over 170 volunteer-run shops around the UK and Ireland, as well as at hundreds of events every year and on the charity’s dedicated online shop.

The new range has been inspired by key moments in the RNLI’s history, and includes clothing, toys, gifts and collectables all designed to help supporters feel part of the crew in its 200th year.

Lifeboat Saturday – a fundraising phenomenon

The Lifeboat Saturday range takes its inspiration from promotional materials produced for a groundbreaking fundraising event.

In 1886, 27 lifeboat crew from Southport and St Anne’s tragically lost their lives during a rescue attempt – still the largest loss of crew in a single incident in RNLI history. Five years later, wealthy industrialist Sir Charles Macara and his wife Marion, still concerned for the families of the lost crew, organised the first Lifeboat Saturday – the world’s first recorded charity street collection. The event, which saw bands, floats and even a full-sized lifeboat paraded through the streets of Manchester, was unlike anything seen before, and quickly spread to other towns, forming the basis of charity collecting that continues today.

The Lifeboat Saturday range includes t-shirts for both men and women, scarf, tote bag and more, all featuring an exclusive print inspired by the intricate designs used for the posters and programmes that promoted this historic event.

The RNLI’s maritime heritage

The RNLI’s rich maritime history is also reflected in the new range, looking back at two centuries of lifesaving innovation. Central to the range is the traditional cork lifejacket, featured in a striking t-shirt design, and worn by collectable ducks and adorable teddy bears. Although it has long since been replaced by modern materials, the original cork lifejacket saved the lives of hundreds of volunteer crew in the early days of the RNLI, notably Whitby crew member Henry Freeman. In 1861 Henry was the only survivor of the disaster that claimed the lives of all his fellow crew members during a great storm, as he was the only one to be wearing the newly designed lifejacket. Henry went on to serve as Coxswain of the Whitby lifeboat for 22 years, a lifesaving career made possible by this innovation.

Further products in the range feature key moments in the RNLI’s 200-year history, as well as a number of items featuring both the original and current RNLI flag design, from t-shirts to mugs, badges and playing cards. And childhood memories of dropping a coin into a collecting box can be reignited with a new money box, designed to mimic those used to collect vital funds in years gone by.

The 200th anniversary range is available from Monday 29 January 2024 at all RNLI shops, found in 172 locations across the UK and Ireland. You can also find the full range of products online at the RNLI shop website. As well as marking this important occasion, every pound and euro of profit made from sales of the new products will be put back into helping the RNLI in its mission to save every one. As a charity reliant on the generous support of the public, this funding is vital to keeping RNLI crews and lifeguards trained, equipped and able to respond to calls for help, now and for the 200 years to come.

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