Registration number 1732
Status Registered


Function Service Vessel
Subfunction Lifeboat
Location Irvine
Vessel type Watson Class Lifeboat
Current use None
Available to hire No
Available for excursions No


Builder White, J Samuel & Co Ltd, Cowes, Isle of Wight
Built in 1962
Rig None
Number of decks 1
Propulsion Motor
Number of engines 1
Boiler type None
Boilermaker None


Breadth: Beam
12.98 feet (3.96m)
Length: Overall
46.98 feet (14.33m)


Built in 1962 by J and J White of Cowes, Isle of Wight, RNLI TGB is a 47ft twin screw motor lifeboat built to hold the weight of up to 95 people. Her yard number was W5520 and her working lifeboat number was 962. 

Despite being strong and resilient vessels, Watson-class boats like TGB were not designed to self-right when capsized in heavy seas, and this was ultimately to lead to her involvement in one of the worst tragedies ever to occur in the history of the lifeboat service. Serving one of the most treacherous stretches of water on the British Isles - the Pentland Firth - TGB was first stationed at Longhope in the Orkney Isles and was launched 34 times, rescuing 24 people. However, at 7.29pm on March 1 7, 1 969, TGB was called to assist a stricken Liberian freighter named Irene who had found herself in trouble on the east side of Orkney, around three miles off the coast of South Ronaldsay.  On her way from Granton to Norway with a crew of 17 on board and struggling with waves of over 60ft high in a Force 9 gale, the crew set off flares which were spotted by residents on the island. With the lifeboat already en route, Irene ran aground on the shore of Grimness - where there were people already waiting to assist her - and her crew were safely brought to shore using a breeches buoy. With the freighter's crew now safely on dry land, TGB battled on through the ferocious storm, with visibility further reduced by rain and snow. 

The Kirkwall lifeboat - the Grace Paterson Ritchie - was also called out, reaching the scene by around 11.15pm. She fired a parachute flare but was to receive no response, and with TGB having been last spotted at 9.35pm north of the Cantick Head Lighthouse - and with no response to radio signals - concerns were beginning to grow for the vessel and her crew. At first daylight, the Grace Paterson Ritchie - along with lifeboats from Thurso, Stromness and Stronsay, an aircraft from Kinloss and a helicopter from Lossiemouth - began the search for RNLI TGB, and at 1.40pm the crew of the Thurso lifeboat spotted the vessel four miles off the coast of Torness. Overturned by waves estimated to be over 100ft high and unable to right herself, all eight members of her crew had been lost, three of whom belonged to one family. In 1970, the Queen Mother unveiled a bronze statue of a lifeboat man overlooking the sea at Osmundwall Cemetery in honour of those men who were lost in the tragedy. The plaque at the base of the statue reads: "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his fellow men."

RNLI TGB was later salvaged, refurbished, and sent to Aranmore, County Donegal in Ireland, where she continued to save lives, answering 41 emergency calls and rescuing 31 people. She retired from that station in 1979 and was sold out of service in 1986. She arrived at the Scottish Maritime Museum in the late 1980s. While the story of TGB is a sad one, lessons were learned and the Longhope tragedy influenced the design of subsequent classes of lifeboats, which since then have all been of the self-righting type - a development which continues to save lives at sea to this day.

TGB is now on display at the Scottish Maritime Museum's Linthouse building, Irvine. 

Key dates

  • 1962

    Watson class motor lifeboat built by J. & J. White of Cowes

  • 1969

    Capsized and all eight crew lost after being sent to rescue Liberian vessel the IRENE

  • 1970

    Refurbished and relocated to Arranmore, County Donegal, Ireland

  • 1979

    Retired from service in Ireland but retained as relief lifeboat 

  • 1986

    Sold out of service to become museum vessel based in Scotland

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