The RNLI were granted Freedom of the Borough by North Down Borough Council on Saturday 18 September 2010 with a formal ceremony at Bangor Town Hall, Mayoral Inspection of the crew and demonstration at the Pier followed by Civic Reception at Bangor Town Hall.
Bangor first received a lifeboat in 1965 originally based at the Tower House, Quay Street, Bangor which now accommodates the Town's Tourist Information Office.
The RNLI received a new boathouse at the Harbour in 1984 from North Down Borough Council and have been based at the same location at the bottom of the Eisenhower Pier since then, with a new boathouse built on the same site in 2002, again provided by North Down Borough Council.
I clearly remember watching the opening of the boathouse in 1984 along with my Mum and Sister on a cold day, just after I was collected from Primary School. I recall watching Councillors on the stage and the boat on display, wanting to eventually become either a Councillor or RNLI volunteer. I feel very privileged I was able to attend the event on Saturday, 26 years later as an Councillor born and bred in North Down.
I enjoyed meeting the various members of crew on Saturday and learning more about the diverse range of work the RNLI undertake. I was especially interested in the history associated with the RNLI, lessons learnt after major incidents such as the sinking of the Princess Victoria and the 1979 Fastnet disaster and the new challenges the RNLI are facing such as assisting with Flood Rescues.
As far as I am aware Freedom of the Borough entitles holders to take their sheep down Main Street. Whilst Freedom of the Borough does not therefore confer many significant entitlements it is a symbolic and extremely well deserved recognition by the people of North Down for the courageous and selfless service by all the volunteers and staff associated with the RNLI.
In order to keep up to date about RNLI Bangor I have subscribed to their Mobile Text Message update service. Everytime the lifeboat is launched you receive a text message and make a small donation! You can sign up at http://www.rnli.org.uk/what_we_do/lifeboats/launches/mobile_phone/