SINCE most of Helensburgh and Lomond’s population lives not much more than a stone’s throw from the water, I doubt there's much chance of anyone here taking the RNLI for granted any time soon.

Even so, while all that the RNLI’s volunteer crew members do is worthy of the highest praise, I do think it’s important to make sure that when they make a rescue that is particularly noteworthy, we mark it properly in the Advertiser.

We’ve done it many times before, most recently when a yachting instructor and his crew were brought to safety in darkness and fast deteriorating weather off Kilcreggan in March, and we've done so again this week by reporting how the Helensburgh lifeboat went to the aid of Michael and Mandy Topping when their Moody 34 craft lost power in Loch Long, and Michael had to be treated by the RNLI crew for the effects of smoke inhalation.

READ MORE: Helensburgh lifeboat crew praised after dramatic Loch Long rescue as man, 50, passed out from smoke inhalation

It’s important, too, to properly recognise the support the RNLI gets from the wider public ­– many, though not all, of whom have no direct connection to the sea themselves. The Toppings plan to host a fund-raising garden party at their County Antrim home later this summer, and only a few weeks ago we featured plenty of pictures of Helensburgh’s part in an RNLI Flotilla on the Clyde.

A couple of weeks ago the RNLI found itself at the centre of some rather less positive publicity when a high profile politician attempted, shamefully and shamelessly in equal measure, to make political capital out of the lifeboat charity’s rescue of 26 people stranded in the English Channel, claiming the RNLI had become “a taxi service for illegal immigration”.

It was therefore with absolutely no surprise, the dog whistles having been duly sounded, that I read on Saturday that the volunteer crew members at the RNLI's busiest lifeboat station, Tower Lifeboat on the River Thames in central London, had been verbally abused as they reported for duty.

READ MORE: In Pictures: Helensburgh boats set tail in support of RNLI in Sir Boyd Tunnock's Clyde flotilla

Both incidents, thankfully, sparked huge outpourings of support for the vital work that the RNLI does, saving those in peril on the sea regardless of their background. I don't have any knowledge of the RNLI's finances, but along with the expressions of support for the RNLI were plenty of public pledges to make donations, and online links encouraging people to do (you can make a donation by clicking here if you like), and I hope these distasteful and disgraceful episodes show themselves in the charity's end-of-year accounts.

I hope, and believe, that Helensburgh’s lifeboat crew will never find to find themselves in a situation exactly like that one any time soon. What I know will happen is that they will continue to do what they do, quietly and capably and only ever for the good of others. And Helensburgh, I am sure, will have no difficulty showing its gratitude, in whatever way it can, for a long, long time to come.

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