A bit of our history
For 40 years our crew have carried out rescues and calls for help from Mull of Galloway to Burrowhead, Wigtown to Gatehouse of Fleet, Wigtown Bay and of course our own Luce Bay, which we believe is the largest in Scotland.
It all started in 1978 following a few distress calls and various boating incidents which were distressing for our local people, they felt they were becoming too frequent. They decided to meet, talk and discuss the possibility of having a rescue craft based at Port William. They contacted the RNLI and expressed their concerns hoping a vessel would be placed here, but after a long deliverance the RNLI declined as they felt the area had little demand for one.
This news spurred our village into action, knowing the character and the resilience of the people of our village; it was obvious they would go it alone. In a very short period a group had assembled and formed a committee calling themselves Port William Inshore Rescue Service Action Committee, hence the birth of PIRSAC.
Serious fundraising was started; energetic groups of helpers did everything possible to raise cash, raffles, dances, bingo and coffee mornings. Many businessmen and individuals made donations.
Just at this time the TV programme Blue Peter was running a campaign to supply rescue boats with other charitable organisations. We weren’t fortunate to receive anything but it did increase the level of awareness which really helped our cause. Money kept accruing and quite unexpectedly, Newton Stewart Round Table came up trumps with a cheque for £1,700 to buy an Avon 5 metre Searider Hull. A 50hp outboard and marine radio was acquired from the funds. Much more was needed, a trailer and a lot of equipment before they could go to sea.
Nevertheless, summer was approaching fast, the fishing season and many small angling boats expected. With a huge effort the boat was fitted out with the minimum necessities, a borrowed trailer and launched on Mayday 1979 by none other than the first lady to cross the Atlantic single handed Nicolette Milnes Walker MBE.
Now a crew had to be trained and HM Coast Guard Senior Officer took this on board. PIRSAC became fully operational on June 20th 1979.
Call outs came mainly from HMCG to the members who carried pagers. The craft could be launched at Port William Harbour, Auchenmalg, Rigg Bay, Garlieston and Isle of Whithorn which ever was closest to the casualty.
From 1979 – 1992 crew members were paid a nominal sum from HMCG, fuel and boat repairs were reimbursed, all monies received were put in PIRSAC’s purse. Payments ceased and PIRSAC became completely self-funding.
Equipment needed to be upgraded and replaced over the years and eventually 19 years later PIRSAC I was put out to grass as they say. A new 5.5 Tornado was bought and fitted with twin 60hp engines and was launched on Mayday 1998.
Following the new health and safety regulations along with the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) new code of practice, a new boat, which in turn needed new housing was priority. To this, secure funding from the Dumfries and Galloway European Fisheries fund was sought. This has allowed us to pay for such a rescue craft, along with a new building on the harbour side, to incorporate our boat housing, crew area and office on the ground level with a community hub, kitchen/café and exhibition and sales area upstairs. Our new Ribcraft 6.5 metre with twin 90hp Suzuki engines was bought in 2015. The new building opened Easter 2016 which has a coffee and gift shop on the upper level which villagers and visitors can enjoy in the knowing their purchases have help sustain the boat and building. The Official opening took place in June 2017.
PIRSAC also provides valuable river support and aid at local water based activities around the coast – helping other communities when it can. Our service is clearly necessary and very important to all fisherman, sailors and tourists that use the harbour and seas around Port William for work and pleasure. The redevelopment will allow greater use of the building by the local community and provide a greater tourist attraction / educational facility through access to the boat house and maritime information. The increased use and increased tourism will provide economic support not only for the inshore rescue, but also Port William as a village.
AREA – The service area covered by our service totals around 500 square sea miles as well as local rivers. Areas covered include Luce Bay and Wigtown Bay. Around the southerly point of Drummore towards the Irish Sea is also a possibility if assistance is required.
Launch sites are determined dependent on tidal conditions. Crew are paged or sent an MDS (Message Distribution Service) from Belfast HMCG. They aim to respond immediately and make their way safely to the boatshed in less than 10 minutes.