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Runaway pigs to daring rescues: Broughty Ferry lifeboat coxswain steps down after 30 years

Broughty Ferry lifeboat coxswain Murray Brown.
Broughty Ferry lifeboat coxswain Murray Brown.

Murray Brown has seen it all in his 30-plus years as coxswain of Broughty Ferry lifeboat.

From daring rescues to devastating losses, a runaway pig and a rather too adventurous dolphin, and crashes involving a hot air balloon and an aeroplane, it has been a role like no other.

But the 57-year-old has decided now is the time to hang up his yellow wellies and sou’wester for the final time, and head for dry land.

Murray steps down at the end of June – and has offered an insight into his three decades of firstly volunteering on, and then driving the lifeboats.

He said: “It’s been amazing. I’ve loved every second.

Murray with his lifeboat equipment.

“I received my 30-year service medal from the RNLI last year and made up my mind now is the time to go.

“I’ve been carrying the pager for almost 32 years and it’s time to hand it over.”

Murray, a former worker in DC Thomson’s magazine publishing business, became a volunteer in 1990 and then coxswain – a paid role to drive the lifeboats – in 2007.

Based on an an average of about 30 shouts a year, Murray reckons he has been involved in about 900 missions.

The medal isn’t Murray’s only award from the RNLI.

Commendation for saving a life in ‘horrendous’ seas

A 2002 rescue saw him receive a commendation for bravery in saving a life.

On December 23 that year, Murray was part of the team that saved a kite surfer who had got into difficulty in the River Eden, which meets the sea at St Andrews.

Murray said: “We got the shout and headed off in the inshore lifeboat. The conditions were horrendous.

“There was a howling gale and very big seas. We had to head south to get to the location but kept having to turn north to outrun massive waves before heading south again when they had passed.

The coxswain has been involved in hundreds of shouts.

“We were eventually able to get him on the boat and took him to the safety of the beach.

“We were pushing ourselves and the boat to its limits but we knew we had to get it back.

“When we eventually reached Broughty Ferry, around four hours after leaving, we were completely shattered, I just went home and crashed out.”

Murray has lost count of the number of times he has helped to pull people out of the Tay and the North Sea in a variety of circumstances.

Murray on the all-weather lifeboat.

Last year alone, Broughty Ferry’s lifeboat crew saved seven lives, and this year, two people are still alive because of their efforts.

Murray said: “It’s an awesome feeling when you see someone walking down the street and you know you are partly responsible for that.”

Sadly, however, not every rescue mission ends in success and Murray has had his fair share of devastation when, despite their efforts, a life simply can not be saved.

There are some people I know of still missing, believed to be in the water, and that’s not good

He said: “These are the worst days but they are part of the job and we are part of a team that is there to support each other, no matter what happens.

“There are some people I know of still missing, believed to be in the water, and that’s not good.

“Even if someone doesn’t survive it’s always better to be able to bring their body home to their family to give them closure, and allow them to grieve.”

Runaway pig and dolphin

There have also been lighter moments.

In 2002 a pig escaped from an abattoir in Broughty Ferry and ended up swimming in the sea, just off the Esplanade.

Murray said: “We managed to rescue it from the water, only to take it back to the abattoir.

“On another occasion in 2011, a dolphin managed to get itself to Perth by swimming up the Tay and then got stuck.

“We managed to get it hoisted on to a stretcher and transfer it to a lorry, where it got blue-lighted back to Broughty Ferry, where we were also involved in getting it back into the water.”

Being coxswain means that Murray has effectively been on call 24/7 for the past three decades – holidays not included.

He said: “All the volunteers know that the pager can go off any time.

Giant cheque is given to Murray and his team for their lifesaving efforts.

“We have all had disturbed Christmas dinners, family events and sleep.

“Sometimes the pager can go off several times in 24 hours. That’s hard on our families and can make life difficult.

“However, for all of us, these things are insignificant when you take into account why the pager is going off – someone’s life could be at risk and that’s the priority, always.”

Murray Brown and the Broughty Ferry lifeboat team receive giant cheque.

Murray – who has also appeared in The Courier and Evening Telegraph for dozens of cheque presentations – is keen to point out that it is a team effort “through bad times and brilliant times”.

Murray has also been no stranger to cheque presentations over the years.

He added: “There are an awful lot of people walking about because of our team – helping each other to help others.”

Murray plans to do more walking in retirement and will remain involved in the lifeboat in some capacity, helping to train volunteers.

His successor as coxswain as not yet been announced.

Shaped by a River: “The lifeboat is a part of your life in the Ferry”

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