VOLUNTEER lifeboat crews in Minehead have challenged Westcountry stations to start a ‘shanty chain’ to help mark the 200th anniversary of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) this year.

They have joined RNLI volunteers across the country who have been finding special ways to mark the bicentenary.

Minehead RNLI spokesman Sam Donati said: “For years the station has nurtured great talent within its ranks, a loose collective of sea shanty singers named the ‘DZ Buoys’.

“Ahead of the 200th anniversary on March 4, this talent has come into the public spotlight.”

Mr Donati said the challenge arose last month when Minehead and Ilfracombe volunteers helped re-enact a momentous event, the 1899 overland launch of the Louisa, which was hauled over Exmoor from Lynmouth to Porlock Weir.

He said: “It was here that the subject of sea shanties emerged, and the dual talents of Ilfracombe and Minehead’s crews were aired within an ancient Porlock hostelry.

“There and then, a gauntlet was laid down.”

Minehead lifeboat helmsman Richard Gay said: “Like all good ideas, this started in the pub.

“We wanted to challenge Ilfracombe, and to get a shanty chain going around the whole coast.

“We hope that all stations will step up and give us a verse.”

DZ Buoys recorded special verses of the ancient shanty ‘A drop of Nelson's Blood’, which was made famous in the 2019 film Fisherman’s Friends.

The verses had special relevance to the Minehead station and the 200th anniversary, and now it has challenged ‘flank stations’ to follow suit and add their own.

Minehead RNLI chairman Richard Newton said: “The 200th anniversary is all about celebrating the past while looking to the future.

“Creating a shanty chain across the South West stations and beyond cements and reaffirms the ‘One Crew’ ethos at the heart of the RNLI.”

So far, the Buoys have appeared on BBC radio in Somerset and Devon, and Mr Donati said there were rumours of a possible BBC television appearance soon.

Ilfracombe and Burnham on Sea stations were said to be practising responses which Mr Donati said the Minehead crew awaited with bated breath.