Wednesday, 2 July 2014


HAVING been brought up and lived in North London for just over 60 years, Irene Roper moved to Lyme Regis after bringing her grandson for a holiday in Charmouth, which she remembered from childhood visits, and after her son started teaching in the area. She moved to the area with Dave, her partner of 30 years, who has sadly since developed dementia and now requires full-time care. Irene has since spent a lot of time raising awareness for dementia and is thankful for the support of her three sons and seven grandchildren. She is also heavily involved with the Lyme Regis and Charmouth RNLI Guild, organisers of the annual Lifeboat Week, and below talks about this year’s events.

WHAT did you do before retirement?
My career was spent working with young children and their families. I originally trained as a nursery nurse and went on to become a midwife. I then worked in various children’s nurseries and pre-school playgroups before joining my local authority social services, supporting families in need. Eventually, I trained as an early years care and education tutor and taught at a local college before retiring in 2002. I still do some work setting and marking exam papers.

HOW did you get involved with the RNLI Guild?
Even before I moved to Lyme I was introduced to Jan Dover, who had lived in the same area of North London as me, and she asked if I would like to help during Lifeboat Week. I had always been interested in the work of the RNLI and was happy to join in. The rest, as they say, is history and on moving to Lyme was quickly invited to join the guild committee and become a volunteer at the lifeboat shop.

WHAT is your role within the guild?
I am now vice-chairman of the guild and my main role is to co-ordinate and organise Lifeboat Week. This starts in October/November every year and ends with the publication of the programme at the end of June, so I will have a couple of months break after each Lifeboat Week and then start all over again for next year! I am also very involved with the team that run the shop. Unfortunately, our volunteer manager recently retired but a dedicated group are keeping it going and if there is anyone out there who would like to take on the manager’s role we would love to hear from you. I also love working with all the committee members and crew whose dedication and support is constant. I certainly couldn’t do it without them. 

WHY is it important to support the RNLI?
The RNLI is a completely voluntary service with the aim to save lives at sea. It is so much a part of Lyme and other coastal towns and we continually have people coming into the shop who tell us how they have been helped by the various crews around the country. It really is like being part of a large family, some of whom regularly respond to a “shout” to help people in trouble. They need our constant support as without them and the RNLI lifeguards, the town would be a less safe place for everyone to enjoy.

WHAT do you enjoy about Lifeboat Week?
Lifeboat Week is the highlight of our year and also our main fundraising event. Although it is very hard work, it is my favourite event of the year and I particularly enjoy the bathtub race and looking at the children’s pavement art. As well as raising money, I have a chance to meet hundreds of visitors who come especially for Lifeboat Week and, along with all our hard working volunteers, can raise awareness of the work of the RNLI. I will admit to moments of panic but it usually all goes according to plan. One of my favourite moments was talking to a young boy who was with his family registering for the crab fishing competition. He was one of the last to register and, on handing him ticket number 88, he promptly burst into tears. When asked what was wrong he said “I won’t be able to catch 88 crabs!” All was quickly explained and off he went, one happy child with his line and bucket.

WHAT do you think the highlights will be this year?
I’m sure that weather permitting the RAF Falcons and the Red Arrows will put on their usual magnificent displays. However, the return of the tug o’ war between the lifeboat crew and the coastguards across the harbour entrance is always a great sight and members of the crew sitting in stocks while having wet sponges thrown at them should prove great fun!

ARE there any new events this year?
This year sees the introduction of some new events including fossil polishing arranged by the museum, the Chesil Flying Club will be flying illuminated model planes and there will be a performance by The Luggers, a local group of ukulele players who are quickly becoming a popular attraction at lots of venues.

WHAT are your other personal interests?
When I have time I love to settle down with a good book and am a member of a reading group in Axminster. I enjoy knitting, swimming and writing (but not for publication) and I am also on the Uplyme WI Committee, writing the monthly meeting reports. It’s not all jam and “Jerusalem” and I have learnt so much from the various speakers.

WHAT do you like about Lyme Regis?
Lyme Regis is one of the friendliest and welcoming places I know. I have made so many friends since moving here. For such a small town, there are so many events and nearly all of them are run by volunteers. I am constantly amazed at the generosity of the people and particularly the support they give to the RNLI.

WHAT do you think it’s missing?
Apart from a couple of moving pavements to help get up the hills! I really would like to see the establishment of an exciting and challenging children’s adventure playground with dedicated areas for different age groups. We are frequently asked in the shop where is the nearest play area for children? If ever one were to be built I would love to get involved in the planning. 

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