Lifeboat crew gets first female volunteer

She has been helping save lives at sea for generations, but the Lerwick Lifeboat has reached a new chapter in its long and distinguished history.

Elle Leslie is the Lerwick Lifeboat crew's first female volunteer.

Elle Leslie is the Lerwick Lifeboat crew’s first female volunteer.

That is thanks to Elle Leslie, who has become the lifeboat’s first female volunteer since it was first launched in 1939.

But the 27-year-old insists she is not phased by working in a traditionally male-dominated environment.

Elle, who during her day-job serves as a social care worker for Shetland Islands Council, has plenty experience of being in the water.

Before moving to Shetland in March 2011 Elle, originally from Edinburgh, took part in white water kayaking all over the north of Scotland, even going so far as to compete in the Scottish Open Championship.

This week sees Elle head off to Poole in Dorset to take part in a four-day course for new recruits.

However, she has already been involved in a number of “shouts” since first going to local training exercises in October.

Asked how she felt about being the first woman to volunteer for the lifeboat crew she said: “I don’t see it any different because ones [lifeboat crews] down south have females. I’ve just done it because I wanted to try something different.

“I used to do white-water kayaking and I used to be a lifeguard as well. I don’t mind getting wet. Kayaking is not the most feminist of sports anyway, it doesn’t put me off.

“I just like doing something different to keep me busy. My friend, Marianne – it’s her dad who’s the engineer, and he said ‘come along to training and see how you go’. I really enjoyed it and just kept going.

“I started going to training in October. I’ve got a course down south this month, though. It’s in Poole at the RNLI college.”

That training will provide Elle with all the necessary skills she will need in fire-fighting, power boat steering and other basic duties she will need to start her lifeboat volunteering in good stead.

But she insists she has got good sea-legs in the meantime.

“I’ve not had any problems so far,” she said.

Coxswain of Lerwick Lifeboat Bruce Leask said, “We are very happy to welcome Elle to the crew. We are happy with the change of time and welcome any female onboard the boat.”

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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