Coxswain Coxy retires after 38 years of saving lives at sea

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Campbeltown lifeboat coxswain David Cox is preparing for life without a pager ahead of his retirement after 38 years’ service to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

The lifeboat station stalwart, known to many as Coxy, joined the crew aged just 17 when asked to by Arthur Gillies, former managing director at Wyvex Media.

After 30 years of full-time service, David will work his final shift on Wednesday, November 24.

The 54-year-old realised he had a passion for the water aged 13 when he enrolled in the Sea Cadets where he learned about seamanship, navigation, sailing and other water sports.

Initially working as an apprentice mechanic with Kintyre Farmers, David then went to college to study Agricultural Engineering.

This meant he was well prepared when a full-time mechanic position became available at RNLI Campbeltown following coxswain Alastair Gilchrist’s retirement.

David described his greatest challenge in his role as working alongside a variety of volunteers.

‘There are so many personalities and attitudes and it can be quite challenging to keep the equilibrium and dynamic at the station,’ he said, adding: ‘I have four children, three grandchildren and, at times, it feels like 28 children at the lifeboat station!’

When asked about his most memorable call-outs, David said: ‘There have been so many but the ones where people lost their lives will never leave me.

‘The guy who was going to cross the Atlantic on a boat no bigger than a bath tub set off to fan-fare and three hours later the “maroons” went off and we rescued him off Peninver.

‘And I can’t forget the young man who went missing on the surfboard and survived 32 hours at sea.’

David added: ‘People rarely see or can picture what happens after the lifeboat leaves the pier. For the crew, it’s the unknown – it could be 3am on a winter’s morning, southerly gale of wind, huge seas and zero visibility.

‘It’s not for everyone but the knowledge we are going to try and help someone in difficulty at sea drives us.

‘Members of emergency services rarely blow their own trumpets because a good outcome one day could be a tragedy the next.

‘What we do get when we return is a “good job, guys” no matter the outcome because we know we have done everything we could.’

David added that the crew of ‘boisterous/girlsterous individuals full of enthusiasm and energy’ is a great binding agent which, over the years, has helped fuel the crew and allow lifelong friendships to develop.

‘I will miss being “The Boss”, the banter, my wife Kareen standing at the bottom of the stairs on an early morning shout with my car keys and the door open as I fumble down trying to put my socks on,’ David said, ‘and I will miss leading a team of outstanding people with whom I am proud and honoured to have served.

‘People have shown me respect, commitment and loyalty and it has been an incredible privilege to have been part of that team and organisation.’

George Bradley, the station’s launch operations manager, said: ‘I am sorry to see Coxy go after working together for 20 years.

‘We have never fallen out and it has been a pleasure to work alongside him all of those years.

‘He has provided excellent service to the RNLI and will be severely missed at the station.

‘The crew and I wish him all the happiness in the world on his well-deserved retirement.’

David added: ‘I wish all the best to my successor, Ruaridh McAulay, and I am sure he will have the support of the whole crew going forward.’