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RNLB “Jane Anne”

RNLB Jane Anne

RNLB Jane Anne is an important survivor from Irvine’s maritime past, and a rare example of its type in Scotland, Jane Anne is a double-ended, self-righting, pulling and sailing lifeboat, which was based at the town’s RNLI station. It was manned mainly by the locally renowned Sinclair family and participated in seven rescues, saving 12 lives.

Built in 1898 by the Thomas Ironworks Co. in Millwall, London, Jane Anne began operating out of Irvine shortly afterwards and remained in use there until the station closed in 1914.

Jane Anne’s design meant it was open to the elements and relied entirely on the strength and skill of the crew who rowed it, relying on wind and muscle power. Crossing over the sand bar at the entrance to the harbour could be hazardous in certain conditions, and rescues would have proved extremely dangerous and exhausting work for the crew in bad weather. However, the construction of the hull, using diagonal cross planking, made it very strong and the enclosed ends provided buoyancy.

There had been a lifeboat station in Irvine since 1834, situated at the mouth of the harbour close to where the pilot house now stands. It was closed in 1914 after it was decided that the lifeboat station at Troon was able to operate more easily in bad weather.

Jane Anne was taken to Falmouth in the south of England and stayed in service with the RNLI until the 1920s when it was withdrawn following the introduction of motorboats. Sold at an auction to Mr E. F. Cooper for £35 in September 1928, the vessel was later converted to a cabin cruiser, but little is known about it from this time.

Discovered in a wood near Taunton, Somerset, in the 1980s, Jane Anne was transferred to the Scottish Maritime Museum in its present state in 1989.


Why does this boat look like this?

Museums try to preserve the items in their collection for as long as possible, but nothing lasts forever. We can make things last longer by controlling temperature, humidity and light, often by putting things in especially air-conditioned rooms, but this is expensive and often not economically feasible.

Wooden boats are especially difficult because of their size and how they are made. Most museum stores are too small to put a whole boat in, and even if they are big enough they’re often already full! This means some vessels have no option but to sit outside. Since they are made of wood, they can decay very quickly. 

This is what happened to Jane Anne both before it came to the maritime museum in 1988 and where it has been since. In the years since it was last a working lifeboat, it has decayed to the point where it is not cost-effective to restore it. To recreate what Jane Anne would have looked like would mean replacing large amounts of the original material. If we did that, then would what was left still be Jane Anne?

“Curated Decay”

What museums do in cases like this is called “curated decay”. This means that we monitor Jane Anne and keep track of how it changes over the years. One way we have done this is with a laser survey – in 2019 Jane Anne was fired with a laser beam millions of times, which measured it in every dimension and provided the Scottish Maritime Museum with a precise record of its physical shape. This is something we can refer to when monitoring how Jane Anne changes over the years, and we can use the data in the future rebuild or recreate Jane Anne.


Digital reconstruction of the transporting carriage

In the meantime you can see above how Jane Anne would have been transported. Rescue boats were sitting outside of water on life-boat transporting carriages. This meant that vessels could be moved to the required location at the harbour and then launched.

The “Tipping’s Plates” surrounding the wheels, facilitated the transport of the boat in cases where long stretches of soft sand had to be traversed before deep enough water was reached allowing the vessel to float.



We would like to thank Leica Geosystems for their help with laser scanning of RLNB Jane Anne.


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