Women coastguards turn the tide on maritime stereotypes at Holy Island of Lindisfarne 

Women coastguards turn the tide on maritime stereotypes at Holy Island of Lindisfarne 

A tide of female volunteers joining the HM Coastguard team at the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in Northumberland is helping to overturn the maritime world’s outdated reputation as the preserve of men.  
Coastguards at the Holy Island of Lindisfarne

After an appeal for new recruits, five of the seven-strong coastguard team keeping watch at the famous landmark near Berwick-Upon-Tweed are now women – including the leader, Station Officer Molly Luke (27), and her deputy, Kirsty Johnson. 

Molly said: “I think it’s quite a big deal, especially for women – we get comments from women as we’re out on a job about how good it is. 

“We have had several shouts when it’s an all-female team and members of the public were commenting, but in a good way. In fact, the majority of our shouts are all-female now. 

“We have had nothing but positives from other coastguards, members of the public and casualties.”  

The Holy Island team is kept busy with people regularly being caught out by tides, waves and weather on both the road causeway between the island and the mainland and the route by foot across the sands. 

Molly, who became part of the team four years ago, said: "Me and Kirsty joined at the same time. We were the first women for a long while.” 

From left: Coastguards Molly Luke and Kirsty Johnson
Holy Island of Lindisfarne Station Officer Molly Luke (left) and deputy station officer Kirsty Johnson

But as other volunteers dropped out during and after the Covid-19 pandemic, a fresh recruitment drive was launched, eventually boosting the group to its new size. 

Molly added: “We were lucky in that we all knew each other. We realised it was a male-dominated area when we started doing training with other teams. 

“They were lovely but people were shocked to see women turn up and jump out of the truck, so we wanted to make our mark! 

“If you’re a woman thinking of joining, I would say do not be afraid, do not be intimidated. Even if it’s a male team they are always welcoming. Go and see them, have a visit and ask questions.” 

Molly spoke about her team ahead of Women in Maritime Day, held by the International Maritime Organisation on 18th May to celebrate female workers in the industry and help reduce the sector’s historical gender imbalance. 

HM Coastguard staff member Martin Lowe, the Coastal Operations Area Commander, added: “Lindisfarne is a very popular visitor spot with difficult conditions, so it’s important to have a strong team to oversee the area. 

“It’s great news that our appeal for new volunteers got such a good response, and the number of female recruits is particularly encouraging.  

“I think it shows how the maritime sector and search and rescue is shedding its old reputation to become much more welcoming to women in leadership roles.” 

The Holy Island of Lindisfarne draws thousands of visitors for its beauty and history as one of the most important centres of early English Christianity, with Irish monks settling there in AD 635 and founding a monastery. 

Holy Island of Lindisfarne coastguard vehicle
The Coastguard team is kept busy with lots of visitors to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne 

Molly added: "Lindisfarne is an incredible location but the area can be treacherous because of the strong tides and waves that often take people by surprise.  

"Our advice for those visiting this lovely spot, or anywhere else on the UK coastline, is to enjoy your trip but check the tides and the weather first, just in case, and keep an eye on the sea. It’s always better safe than sorry." 

For more information about volunteering for HM Coastguard, visit hmcoastguard.uk/volunteer-as-a-coastguard  


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