Tributes have been paid to a man who gave almost six decades’ of dedicated service to the RNLI
Dr Gareth Hughes-Thomas’ links to Porthdinllaen RNLI lifeboat stretch back all the way to the mid-1950s. After a string of long-service awards, this year he received the highest honour bestowed on non-crew volunteers by the Institution when he was made an Honorary Life Governor.
Dr Hughes-Thomas, known to most at the station as “Dr Tom”, died yesterday evening (Monday 24 August). He recently celebrated his 90th birthday.
Dr Hughes-Thomas, who lived in Morfa Nefyn, was a local GP and became Deputy Honorary Medical Adviser at Porthdinllaen RNLI in 1956.
He became the station’s Honorary Medical Adviser 10 years later and was station doctor until 1985, when he retired and travelled as a ship’s medical officer with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.
His commitment to the station was not limited to medical matters; prior to his retirement as Honorary Medical Adviser he was elected as Lifeboat Station (now Lifeboat Management Group) Chairman in 1976, a role he fulfilled actively right up until his death.
Ken Fitzpatrick, who has been involved with Porthdinllaen RNLI for 51 years and is the current Lifeboat Operations Manager at the station, said: ‘This is a very sad time and our thoughts and prayers go out to Dr Thomas’ family.
‘Dr Thomas was here at the lifeboat station when I started as shore crew as a boy in 1964 and he has been here ever since.
‘Everybody loved him - from people who have been around for years like me to young and new members of the crew.
‘He was only small in stature but he was a hugely kind and giving man. He was always there to help whenever the station needed him.’
Dr Hughes-Thomas made a speech and was presented with a vellum on behalf of the station during last year’s triple celebration for Porthdinllaen RNLI – when the new lifeboat station was opened, the new Tamar class lifeboat was named and as the station’s 150 years of saving lives at sea was marked.
Ken Fizpatrick added: ‘During his years as station doctor he was always on hand and would come to sea if we needed a doctor on board.
‘As chairman he would lead our committees and remained an active focal point for the station right up until his death.
‘He was part and parcel of the station for decades and was so proud of what the volunteers did here saving lives at sea.’
As well as the Honorary Life Governor award, where non-crew volunteers are granted life membership by the RNLI Board as recognition of exceptional service to the Institution, Dr Hughes-Thomas was awarded a Silver Badge in 1985, a Gold Badge in 2001 and a Bar to his Gold Badge in 2007 in recognition of his tireless service to the charity.
Matt Crofts, RNLI Lifesaving Delivery Manager, added: ‘Dr Thomas embodied everything that volunteering for the RNLI encompassed.
‘He never failed to answer the call – both from the station and from the wider community and he lived the most incredible life both at sea and on the land.
‘My enduring memory of him was having a whisky on the day of the station opening and naming ceremony last year – a proud day for him and everyone at the station.
‘He was simply a true legend and he will be sorely missed.’