A Shop With a Heart : Why Not Join Us?

Since the launch of St Abbs Independent lifeboat in 2016 we have been grateful to all those who have kept us floating and functioning.  We have recently started sharing a few news stories with you that shine a spotlight on some of our local fundraising groups, but today we’d like to look inwards and celebrate our own volunteers.

The story of our merchandise is well known by many, as from the very beginning it has been one of the core activities for raising funds for the Lifeboat. Beginning with just a T-shirt and a “Save St Abbs Lifeboat” logo in 2015, the sale of merchandise has involved so many amazing volunteers over the last 7 years investing buckets of their own time into the growth and development of sales. From originally shivering in a wind-blasted trailer on the harbour-side with piles of T-shirts on kitchen tables,  we now find ourselves with an amazing tardis of sales activity in our warm and inviting harbour shop.

Anne dresses Gertie ready for another day of welcoming customers

The shop is run officially as a trading arm of the main Lifeboat charity, and as such it is a separate legal entity with directors, registered as a charitable company with Companies House. Behind the scenes therefore our current directors do everything that company directors do – paperwork, spreadsheets, accounting, stock -taking, dealing with suppliers, sourcing new products and complying with all the stuff that company directors have to comply with. They do all this entirely as volunteers so that all the profits from the shop go towards the Lifeboat.

Front of house, we have a small army of volunteers who give up their time during the season on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays to welcome customers and make their visit to St Abbs Lifeboat shop a memorable one. Today it was the turn of Anne Mason who has lived near St Abbs for 44 years and who has been involved with the Independent Lifeboat since the start. Anne has always felt very passionately about the need for a lifeboat in St Abbs for personal reasons of loss. However, she recalls with a smile how she initially contacted people like Sean Connery and Boyd Tunnock at the start of the “Save” Campaign and Boyd was the only one to reply (shame on you Sean!), enclosing a sizeable cheque. An ensuing thankyou telephone conversation after a Lifeboat Meeting led to Mr Tunnock donating sufficient funding for purchase of the new independent lifeboat and so our boat, “Thomas Tunnock”, was born.

Anne Mason in the Lifeboat Shop on Friday 5th April 2024

Back to the present, and whilst we were chatting in the shop this morning, a family from Germany pops in to buy a wide range of souvenirs to take back home. Mum buys Tunnocks ponchos as she says the family goes to many festivals over the summer in Germany, where apparently it is always raining (sounds familiar), and she fancies “going as a teacake” this year. Hot on their heals, a lady called Capri Ross-Williams comes in with her family and buys her two boys New Asgard T-shirts before they head off on the Easter Egg Trail. For those of you that missed the world’s highest grossing film “Endgame” by Marvell, it features St Abbs in it for about 3 minutes in the middle of the 3 hour epic – but iconically for Marvell fans they made St Abbs into New Asgard – hence we are twinned on our road signs with a mythical home of the gods. The T-shirts fly off the shelves – not in a god-like way – but seized upon by parents who want to remember that they visited New Asgard in actual reality.

Capri buys that precious memento of New Asgard

Later on Pip Millard comes in, accompanied by friends from Reston and Eyemouth, to buy some cards. Pip is also a shop volunteer and she chats with Anne about why they do it. Its obvious that everyone has a very personal connection with lifeboats in particular – Pip recalls childhood memories of collecting for lifeboats in Mallaig and carefully pinning little flags on donors. Both agree that the hours they spend in the shop fly by, meeting and chatting to tourists, local and foreign – “its like a geography lesson” Anne says as she discovers just how far and wide our supporters come from. There are also the unexpected connections that pop up when chatting with people and finding out why they have visited St Abbs – a shared experience, person or a place that connects two strangers. Anne also loves the feeling that she’s contributing to something so worthwhile. She confesses that despite the fact that she did once jump out of a plane to raise funds for a school in India, her days of running marathons for beneficial causes are maybe over, so spending her time in the shop is preferable.

The ever popular hoodies….now in a gorgeous red

The two volunteers chat about the “new lines” for this season and have a shared giggle about how they love to describe these to customers like they are behind the counter in an episode of “Are You Being Served”. This year’s new exciting line is the red zipped hoodies and Anne is proudly wearing hers to demonstrate just how cosy and striking they are. Last year the “new line” was the range of Tunnocks items and these seem to have swelled in number with not only ponchos, but T-towels, oven gloves, mugs, bandanas and so on.

It was a shame to leave really as the shop is obviously a place of welcome, friendship and laughter as well as a place to buy gifts and merchandise, and all to support a life-saving service. So why not join us?

If you live locally and you have a few hours to spare to join this amazing group of people then do get in touch with the shop using fundraising@stabbslifeboat.org.uk. We are always looking for new members of the team and you get lots of support and training on the relatively simple tablet-based till system so no prior experience is needed.

Alternatively if you want to grab one of those new hoodies or you just want to look like a tea-cake at a festival – then you know where to come!

If you don’t bring a bag – we have totes
Teddy needs a good home…
PJs and Bandanas – could be worn together?

The shop is open each Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 11am until 3pm from Easter until the end of October, with extended times for bank holidays and other particular events. And of course don’t forget that we also have a range of items available online at https://stabbslifeboat.org.uk/get-involved/#merchandise

To finish, please join all of us in saying a huge thank you to all our incredible shop volunteers for the work that they do in keeping us afloat and floating. Every hour that they put in matters, is valued and makes our lifeboat community such a strong and lasting one.

Lots of small things – easy to transport home
Delightful scents in candles
Hats, hats and more hats