World’s first charity street collection remembered in Manchester with RNLI event

An event this weekend in the city centre will recall an intriguing piece of Manchester history from the 19th century.
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Manchester saw the world’s first charity street collection in aid of lifeboats take place 130 years ago - and it is being remembered in the city centre this weekend.

The RNLI will take over St Anne’s Square on Saturday 9 October to commemorate the milestone anniversary.

A historic picture taken on that day more than a century ago will be recreated, and one Greater Manchester family will speak about their personal experience of relying on the charity that saves lives at sea.

What is the event the RNLI is staging in Manchester city centre?

The RNLI is remembering the first-ever charity street collection which took place in the city in 1891, 130 years ago.

That day back in the Victorian era brought the work of saving lives into the heart of the city centre, and that is exactly what the charity is doing again tomorrow (Saturday 9 October).

The event takes place in St Anne’s Square from 9am until 5pm.

RNLI crews from Lytham in Lancashire will be there thanking residents who have given generously to the lifeboats over the years.

The Lytham St Annes Shanty Crew will be singing throughout the day and historical exhibitions and artefacts will be on display.

An original image taken on that day 130 years ago will also be recreated on the day.

The historic image from 1891 the RNLI will recreate in Manchester. Photo: RNLIThe historic image from 1891 the RNLI will recreate in Manchester. Photo: RNLI
The historic image from 1891 the RNLI will recreate in Manchester. Photo: RNLI

The event is being organised by the Manchester RNLI fund-raising branch.

What happened in Manchester 130 years ago?

The RNLI was the beneficiary of a fund-raising event on 1 October 1891 that would establish a way of supporting good causes which has been followed ever since.

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

Wealthy local 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, but instead of asking wealthy philanthropists for money, he appealed to the man on the street.

The fund-raising event featured an impressive horse-drawn parade, with lifeboats, bands and floats making their way through the centre of the city.

The event was a considerable success, raising more than £5,000. Some 30,000 people lined the streets to watch the spectacle and donate.

Family thanks the RNLI for its lifesaving work

The Williamson family from Salford, who will be attending the event and taking part in the historic image recreation, know first-hand how important the RNLI’s work is.

Dad-of-three Ben Williamson was bodyboarding at Perran Sands in Cornwall when he began to fear for his life after being swept by the current 100 metres away from the shoreline.

His wife Hannah and their three young children, seven-year-old Megan and five-year-old twins Niamh and Sammy, watched from the beach as the horror unfolded.

Two teenage boys went into the water to attempt a rescue before 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.

An RNLI lifeboat at sea in a storm. Photo: Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images)An RNLI lifeboat at sea in a storm. Photo: Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images)
An RNLI lifeboat at sea in a storm. Photo: Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images)

“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.”

How can I help the RNLI?

There is a fund-raising page which has been set up in the connection with the 130-year anniversary where people can donate.

The RNLI is also still seeking volunteers to collect money during the event.