Dunbar woman leaves £14,000 to RNLI lifeboat heroes in her will after spectacular rescue at sea in 1965


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Joan Scambler expressed her wish to donate the amount to the local lifesaving station before her death in January 2021 at just 69 years old.

It comes after Joan’s near-death experience at East Beach in April 1965, after she took her friend Arnold ‘Noll’ Togneri’s wooden canoe out to sea.

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Joan Scambler in the water a few years after her terrifying experience

Noll, now 72, remembers well the day and the panic he felt when Joan was plunged into cold water.

“Several of us were there. It was a beautiful day in April, but cold with a fairly strong westerly breeze,” said Noll, who was at the beach that day with friends Jack and Mark Beattie and John and James Mackay.

“Jack and Mark had a chance, then Joan came over with a friend and wanted a chance.”

Joan took Noll’s canoe while her friend Linda Sinclair took a smaller one, but the pair soon found themselves in trouble. Linda managed to return safely to shore, but despite Noll’s warning not to go far, Joan ended up in the water about a mile and a half away.

Joan Sambler

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Noll, who set off in a friend’s canoe to try and save her himself but also ended up in the water, said: ‘Joan was wearing fashionable jeans and boots which made him made swimming difficult. I was in underwear and a shirt. We were about a mile and a half offshore and it was now very cold. I was trying to keep her awake.

Fearing for their lives, the two men were forced to stay in the water and wait. And despite Joan’s insistence that Noll swim back and leave her, the young man never left her.

Instead, he kept her afloat until the couple could be pulled out of the freezing sea.

Joan Scambler never forgot the crew of the lifeboat that saved her life

Shortly before 5 p.m., the Watson-class lifeboat Margaret set sail from the harbor and joined the teenagers in no time.

Davie Lees, now 82, was the last surviving member of the crew that day. The former fisherman answered the call, along with coxswain Robert George Brunton, engineer Andrew Smith, his son Charlie, Zander Wilson and Bob Marr.

Davie, who spent four years on the crew and then returned as assistant launch authority and director of lifeboat operations, said: ‘We got to them pretty quickly but they blew themselves up. She hung on but couldn’t hang on any longer.

“We picked them up, put them on board and Zander Wilson, who was our rescuer at the time, got them blankets to warm them up and we brought them ashore. Joan was on the verge of hypothermia.

The couple spent a night at Dunbar Cottage Hospital in East Links and, although in shock, both made a full recovery.

For his bravery and dedication to saving his young friend, Noll received an engraved watch – much like the one his father received when he was 16, also for rescuing someone from the water.

And for Joan, the experience reminded her to always live her life to the fullest.

Her brother Alan said she did just that, dividing her time between sports she loved, such as netball, country dancing and swimming, and playing music as part of the popular duo The Vee Jays.

She spent 15 years in North Berwick until her early 40s, but spent her whole life in Dunbar.

Joan, who has owned many golden retrievers throughout her life, has had many jobs, but most recently worked at a local pet store and behind the counter at the post office in Dunbar.

Although decades have passed, Joan has never forgotten what happened at the beach that day and the experience has sparked a lifelong love for the RNLI and gratitude for all that the crew did to save his life.

Alan said: ‘Joan never forgot the RNLI and was a regular supporter of Dunbar’s Lifeboat Day. To show his appreciation for such a fantastic institution, we have his great-nephew and

niece Lewis and Ailie presenting a check from Joan for £14,360.

Lewis and Ailie, 11 and 7 respectively, will present the check to Dunbar Lifeboat fundraising chair Veronica Davies at the Lifeboat Fete on Saturday.

Noll, who later served on the crew and became assistant launch authority, will also be there to remember Joan, as well as the four boys who were at the beach nearly 60 years ago.

Veronica Davies said: “On behalf of the RNLI, we truly appreciate the kindness of the late Joan Scambler and her family in what must have been a very difficult time. It was a nice gesture in memory of Joan and we are truly grateful for this very generous gift. The donation will go a long way towards helping the RNLI, a cause close to Joan’s heart, continue to save lives at sea.”


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