Lifeboat bell is ring­ing for Hazel as she re­vis­its place of her birth

The Oban Times - - News - STEVEN RAE srae@oban­times.co.uk

A TEENAGER who sailed into the history books as the first baby to be born on an Oban lifeboat, has made a re­turn visit to where it all be­gan, as she cel­e­brated her 18th birth­day.

Hazel Ban­ner be­came the first of four ba­bies to be born on the Oban RNLI lifeboat, Mora Edith Mac­Don­ald, on 5 Au­gust, 1997.

Now 18-year- old Hazel, who lives in St John’s Town of Dalry, near Castle Dou­glas, has made a spe­cial pil­grim­age to Oban lifeboat sta­tion for a trip down mem­ory lane – and there were sev­eral sur­prises in store for her.

Hazel, who has the mid­dle name, Mora, as a per­ma­nent re­minder of her un­usual place of birth, was taken out in the lifeboat and pre­sented with an ex­act replica of the lifeboat’s brass bell, en­graved with her name and date of birth.

Hazel said: ‘I think the bell is lovely. I’ve al­ways been aware of where I was born and I have al­ways liked the sea.

‘I’m a mem­ber of the RNLI and the fam­ily does fundrais­ing for them at cof­fee morn­ings and other things.’ Mike Robert­son, chair­man of Oban Lifeboat, said: ‘I am de­lighted to welcome Hazel back to the sta­tion to re­ceive the ship’s bell for her 18th birth­day. The fact that the name, Mora, part of the lifeboat name, is also part of Hazel’s name, has made it all the more spe­cial for ev­ery­one at the sta­tion.’

Hazel’s par­ents, Jane and Nick Ban­ner, lived at Bunes­san on the Isle of Mull at the time of her birth.

Jane, 47,said: ‘I was part way through my labour on Mull when it was de­cided that I should be trans­ported to hos­pi­tal on the main­land and so, it be­ing the early hours, there was no ferry and I was met by the mid­wife and the lifeboat and, when we reached Oban, we moored at the pier.

‘Hazel’s birth cer­tifi­cate gives Oban pier as her place of birth. I had been moved in the early hours and it was 9.01am when I gave birth, with my hus­band sup­port­ing me at one end and the mid­wife at the other.

‘It was quite small in the lifeboat, so I can see why the crew kept go­ing up on deck for air.’

Mid­wife Joanne Thorpe, who de­liv­ered her, was at the pre­sen­ta­tion, as well as past and present mem­bers of Oban lifeboat and RNLI of­fi­cials.

Joanne, who jour­neyed from Oban to Mull with the lifeboat to col­lect Jane in 1997, re­called: ‘It was a beau­ti­ful morn­ing and when we got to Oban there was an am­bu­lance wait­ing.

‘I asked Jane if she wanted to be left in the boat or taken into the am­bu­lance, which would have meant lift­ing her up, and she said she wanted to stay on the lifeboat. The rest is history.’

Af­ter a tour of the lifeboat and a trip around Oban Bay, Dou­glas Craig, who was coxswain of the lifeboat in 1997, pre­sented Hazel with a replica of the lifeboat’s brass bell.

It is an old tra­di­tion that chil­dren, born on a navy ves­sel, are pre­sented with the ship’s bell when they are 18.

BELLE OF THE BOAT: Hazel be­side the lifeboat’s bell. She now has her own spe­cial replica.

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