A CELEBRATION tinged with sadness was held at the Feathers Hotel ending five decades of support for the Royal National Lifeboats Institution in the Ledbury district.

The was first formed in 1969, and arose from a talk given by the lifeboat's regional secretary.

The powerful message inspired a few members to recruit enough women to form a fund-raising guild, for Ledbury and the district.

Over the last half-century, numerous local events have been organised bringing in hundreds of thousands of pounds for the important work of saving lives at sea, with more than £100,000 raised in the last 16 years since the beginning of the 21st century.

Many people are not aware that the work of the RNLI is supported solely by public donation, for which there is an ongoing and ever increasing need.

The Guild has been fortunate and grateful for the loyal and steadfast generosity of many local people, who have opened their homes and gardens in aid of the cause. The Guild is renowned for its distinctive high class catering provided at all events, and the winning combination of food and gardens guaranteed huge ticket sales. Further income was generated from coffee mornings, tea and talk afternoons, concerts, fashion shows and street collections, whilst permanent collection boxes yielded generous sums of money in a vast number of businesses, trading and other establishments.

Three local founder members who were presented long-service badges by the RLNI, Pam Crocker, Fran Bradley and Sue Farr recalled that the first ever street collection in Ledbury raised a very acceptable £26, whilst recent collections have amounted to around £500!

However diminishing membership and increased regulations have made it difficult to continue to organise such high-level activities.

These, coupled with escalating costs of new boats, technology, equipment and training along with the introduction of life guards on beaches, safeguarding holiday makers, especially those from land-locked places such as Ledbury have rendered the successful role undertaken by local volunteers unsustainable.

Fran Bradley said; " It is with great sadness and regret that the guild feels unable to continue. Ledbury and District members, and the RNLI, would like to express sincere thanks to all local supporters, whose loyalty and generosity has enabled substantial contributions to be made to the lifeboat cause".