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