Stromness Lifeboat Station

We walked along the southern coastline below Stromness on the Orcadian mainland. The clouds were dark and moody, the winds strong, and the waves powerful, which delighted to throw seafoam into the air, and occasionally reached up to our footpath, washing it with saltwater. Opposite were the islands of Hoy and Graemsay, their hills just visible through the thick cloud. We gazed out towards the North Atlantic, a cold and grey mass of ocean, but here the seas were an aquamarine colour, despite their cool temperatures.

We had passed a ruinous life boat station, for a newer and better one was located a mile or so away. A plaque close by informed us that it was paid for by one Titus Salt. Sir Titus was a Yorkshire industrialist and Congregationalist Christian who constructed the Saltaire model town not far from our chapel. In 1866, the Albion had sunk here, with a loss of eleven lives. Sir Titus responded to the need, and supplied the 200 or so pounds to fund an RNLI station and lifeboat, the Saltaire. It seems strange that an Englishman who lived and worked 500 miles south should have compassion on folk so far north, who would never meet him or shake his hand. Salt was no preacher or pastor, but he saw his financial power as a means to do good, not an objective in itself.

We Christians often support causes and charities whose beneficiaries and recipients we shall never meet, at least not this side of death. Although our lives seem to yield little and our giving appears to make marginal difference, we should still do it. Some grow weary of doing good, but we do it because we are called to, not because we enjoy observing its results.

Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore. Psalm 37:27