The lifeboat service was born in the days when Britons believed in independent, voluntary action. In 1789, a ship foundered in a storm in the mouth of the river Tyne. Spectators on shore watched in horror as crewmen fell into the sea and drowned; no one was able to rescue them. Moved by the tragedy, local philanthropists offered a two-guinea prize for a lifeboat designed to withstand heavy seas. Several inventors came forth with ideas, and the result was a long rowboat pointed at both ends and buoyed by 700 pounds of cork. One by one, local life-boat stations were established along the coast.
In 1823, Sir William Hillary, himself a lifeboatman on the Isle of Man with 305 rescues to his credit, wrote an "Appeal to the Nation" calling for the establishment of a national lifeboat organization supported by voluntary subscriptions. London merchants took up the idea and organized the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in 1824. The RNLI eventually set up stations all around the British Isles, including Ireland and Northern Ireland
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