Manchester and the RNLI: The recreation of a landmark photo

Today, Manchester will celebrate 130 years since the world’s first ever charity street collection took place.

The RNLI will be recreating this image taken 130 years go in Manchester (Pic from RNLI)

This weekend will see RNLI fundraisers collecting around the city to support volunteer crews, who have been saving lives on the coast since the charity was formed in 1824. As part of the celebrations, a historic picture taken on the day of the collection will be recreated to reflect modern day fundraising.

In 1891 the world’s first ever charity street collection, in aid of the RNLI, began with an impressive horse-drawn lifeboat parade through the city.

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It featured a parade of bands, floats and lifeboats through the streets of Manchester and raised over £5,000.

Street fundraising began as a result of a lifeboat disaster five years earlier, when 27 men from Southport and St Anne’s died while trying to rescue sailors from the stricken vessel Mexico.

Following the sad incident, a local wealthy industrialist Sir Charles Macara answered the RNLI’s call for help. He was so concerned for the widows and children of the volunteers lost that he decided to organise a collection for them. Instead of asking wealthy philanthropists for money, he appealed to the man on the street.

Charles and his wife Marion got a committee together and organised the first Lifeboat Saturday in aid of the appeal. It was the world’s first charity street collection ever recorded, and the formula proved popular for decades to come.

Now, in 2021, the RNLI are celebrating 130 years since Manchester’s world first, by once again bringing the RNLI into the heart of the city where street fundraising all started.

The event is being organised by the Manchester RNLI fundraising branch who are always overwhelmed by the response to their collections, and are looking forward to giving something back to the community.

Alex Doig, chair of the Manchester fundraising branch says: “Manchester is the birthplace of street donations, not just in the UK but the world, and that’s something to be really proud of.

“The anniversary will be about celebrating the strength of the link between the city and the sea. It’s only through our volunteers time, through charitable donations and through the support of local communities and businesses that our crews can do what they do.”

It’s a story only too familiar for the Manchester family, who will attend the event to thank the RNLI for saving the life of dad-of-three Ben Williamson.

Ben was bodyboarding at Perran Sands, when he feared for his life after being swept by the current 100 metres away from the shoreline.

The horror unfolded as Ben’s wife Hannah and their three young children, Megan, seven, and five-year-old twins Niamh and Sammy, watched from the beach. Two teenage boys had gone into the water to attempt a rescue.

The St Agnes RNLI crew raced to the incident and pulled the three casualties into the lifeboat. Ben, Hannah and their children were reunited with hugs on the beach.

Hannah said: “Living in the city, you don’t really see the RNLI as that relevant, but without them my husband wouldn’t be here today.

“We really thought we had lost him. Many of us holiday or visit the coast for day trips and it’s amazing to think these people are there and ready to drop everything should a stranger need help. I think the RNLI is actually more important to people like us not living close to the coast, as it’s a new environment and when you’re on holiday, you do tend to let your guard down as you want to have a great time, which is exactly what we did.

“I was so proud to hear that the first street collection happened here in Manchester and feel incredibly proud and humbled to be attending the event with my family.

“We do all we can now to support the RNLI and hope the event is a great success.”

The event will run between 9-5pm and seaside snacks will be available.