LOOKING out from Moelfre, on the east coast of Ynys Mon, stands a seven-foot bronze figure at the wheel of a lifeboat. 

“It is pertinent as he’s looking out to sea and looking over for those in need of help,” says Brian Hughes of the bronze memorial of local lifeboat coxswain Richard ‘Dic’ Evans. 

“He was certainly a local celebrity and to a degree a national celebrity of his time.” 

The statue was unveiled in 2004, three years after Dic had died, aged 96, a testament to the esteem in which he was, and still is, held by those brave volunteers who dedicate themselves to safeguarding those who find themselves in peril at sea. 

The event which first secured Dic’s place in history occurred 62 years ago today when his bravery in the successful rescue of the crew of a stricken cargo ship earned him the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s highest award for gallantry, the Gold Medal. 

Since 1824 to this day only 151 have been awarded by the lifeboat charity but seven years and less than two months after his first Dic would be awarded a second for the rescue of a crew of a cargo vessel that had been driven out of control, of the island's north coast, by 100 mile per hour winds. 

Richard 'Dic' Evans pictured in the 1980s by Derec Owen courtesy of Moelfre Lifeboat StationThe Dic Evans statue in Moelfre, the modern lifeboat house can be seen in the background of the centre photograph. Pictures: Siriol Griffiths and the RNLI

Such heroics have earned Dic, one of only five men to have been twice awarded the Gold Medal, a place in the hearts of the people of the coastal village and surrounding area where the lifeboat crew remains an integral part of the community. 

READ MORE: Meet the RNLI crews keeping the coast in Wales safe

When the Moelfre Lifeboat Station shared a 1980s photograph of Dic, sat contentedly on the coast looking out to sea with his pipe to his lips, to its Facebook page the comments were a testament to his standing in the community nearly 20 years after his death. 

“A thousand stories written on every line of his face a true hero of the high seas,” said one - and what stories Dic had to tell. 

The circumstances of the first gold medal are almost unbelievable – perhaps only those who’ve known at first hand the dangers of the seas can truly comprehend the bravery, determination and skill Dic and a make shift crew had shown on October 27, 1959. 

The M V Hindlea, a small cargo ship registered in Cardiff, and on passage from Manchester to Newport, was driven towards the rocks at Moelfre by hurricane force winds and its captain gave the order to abandon ship. 

Richard 'Dic' Evans pictured in the 1980s by Derec Owen courtesy of Moelfre Lifeboat StationThe Hindlea on the rocks Picture: Moelfre Lifeboat Station

Dic and his mechanic, Evan Owens, had to scramble together a make shift rescue party, with only two regular crew members available, 2nd Coxswain Murley Francis and Bowman Hugh Owen. Downed telephone lines because of the storm meant others couldn’t be contacted. Instead volunteer Hugh Jones, who had never been to sea in a lifeboat before, was recruited. 

Dic took the Moelfre reserve lifeboat Edmund and Mary Robinson close to the ship ten times, enabling the eight-man crew to jump one by one onto the lifeboat, with a broken ankle the only injury sustained. 

During the rescue the lifeboat was once washed onto the deck of the ship and back off, and the coxswain had to manoeuvre perilously close to the ship’s propellers which were churning at full speed.  

At one point the lifeboat heeled over until its mast was under water before righting itself. Thirty five minutes after the last of the crew were saved, the Hindlea struck the rocks and was lost but crucially all its crew saved. 

Mechanic Evan received a silver medal, and the three other crew members bronze medals. 

Richard 'Dic' Evans pictured in the 1980s by Derec Owen courtesy of Moelfre Lifeboat StationMembers of the Hindlea Rescue Crew Picture: Moelfre Lifeboat Station

Then on December 2 1966 Dic won his second gold medal, aged 61, having been at the wheel of the lifeboat for 24 straight hours. 

The Moelfre lifeboat Watkin William had been at sea since early morning having been called out to two vessels in trouble before they were told the Greek cargo vessel M V Nafsiporos was being driven out of control by 100 mile an hour winds towards Point Lynas, five miles north of Moelfre. 

The Holyhead lifeboat rescued five of the crew but had sustained damage while Dic’s Moelfre boat rescued ten more crew but the captain and three crew of the Nafsiporos remained on board.  

After landing the rescued crew members at Moelfre, Dic took his lifeboat back to the Nafsiporos and stood by all night until a tug from Liverpool arrived and managed to take the cargo vessel in tow.  

Those may be the most high profile of Dic’s thousands of stories but he also held a Bronze Medal for his role in the rescue of an aircrew in the Irish Sea during the second world war, in 1943, and he was also presented with the Queen’s Silver Medal for gallantry at sea in 1960 among other honours. 

Over his 50 years as a lifeboatman, having joined the crew in 1921, Dic was involved in 179 launches which rescued 281 lives. 

Such heroics not only earned Dic the respect of those who are willing to sacrifice everything to save the lives of others at sea but respect throughout his community and as Brian, who works on heritage projects for the charity, said national recognition. 

When Dic retired in 1970 he was presented with the famous Red Book by Eamon Andrews as the subject of the television programme This Is Your Life. 

A recording of the programme can be seen at the RNLI’s Seawatch museum in Moelfre, next to the lifeboat house, and where Dic’s statue stands. 

Brian, who grew up in nearby Amlwch, had known of Dic since childhood: “I remember him well. I lived in Amlwch and used to go to Moelfre and Dic was the inspiration for me to get involved with the RNLI.” 

Brian would volunteer to carry out tasks and cleaning at the Moelfre station until his early 20s when he moved away from the island. 

“My parents had a drapers in Amwlch and when Dic used to come in they were always very pleased to see him and it would be, ‘take a seat’ and have a chat. 

“I remember he had Ford Escort car, it was a brown, gold colour and he was very proud of it.” 

Dic however, according to Brian, would say little about his heroics: “He would talk about it but not that much, he regarded it as part of his job, it was something he did, it was nothing special it was his job. Though I’m sure he was deeply satisfied he had managed two major rescues without loss of life.” 

For Brian there is a poignancy in the success of the 1959 rescue led by Dic which occurred one day after the 100th anniversary of the storm that sunk the Royal Charter clipper boat off the coast of Ynys Mon with the an estimated loss of hundreds of lives. You can read more about that tragedy here

“So many lost their lives in the Royal Charter but in 1959 Dic carried out a rescue in which all lives were saved, so it was one extreme to the other,” said Brian. 

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Underlining how deep the connection with the sea is in coastal communities, Dic had a family connection to the rescue of the Royal Charter and he had followed his father into the lifeboat crew while his uncle was the coxswain. 

At 14 Dic joined the Merchant Navy but returned to Ynys Mon while still a young man, but a master mariner, to manage the family butcher shop and served in the Home Guard during the Second World War. 

The family connection remained, two of his three sons joined him on the lifeboat and were involved in the 1966 rescue of the Nafsiporos. 

Dic though was only too well aware of the dangers of his role and Brian says he was friends with his counterpart Daniel Kirkpatrick the coxswain of the Orkney lifeboat that was lost with its crew during a rescue attempt in 1969.  

They had met at an awards dinner at a London hotel only a few years earlier. 

“Dic was a deeply relegious man and was very much chapel going to the extent that he didn’t want to do training exercises on a Sunday as that was chapel day. He was deeply affected by the loss of the Longhope Lifeboat up in Orkney.” 

Richard 'Dic' Evans pictured in the 1980s by Derec Owen courtesy of Moelfre Lifeboat StationMembers of the Moelfre Lifeboat crew pictured in August 1935. It is unclear if Dic is in the group photographed. Picture Moelfre Lifeboat Station

After retirement Dic became a public speaker, raising funds for the RNLI. According to his obituary in The Guardian after an address for the RNLI’s 150th anniversary at the Guildhall in London, he received a standing ovation, an honour until then accorded only to prime ministers Harold Macmillan and Sir Alec Douglas-Home. 

But having handled the rough seas he also knew how to navigate an audience as another tribute on the Moelfre’s Lifeboat Station Facebook page recalled: “A wonderful raconteur. I remember him telling me that his role was to make the rich ladies reach for their handkerchiefs with one hand and their cheque books with the other. His recounting of the rescue of the Hindlea crew was really moving.” 

As well as his bravery medals Dic was awarded the British Empire Medal in 1969 and in 1978 was made an honorary bard, and accepted into the Gorsedd, at the National Eisteddfod, while Prince Charled unveiled his statue in 2004. 

READ MORE: Betty Campbell monument unveiled in Cardiff

Dic’s legacy is well remembered by older generations at Moelfre and the surrounding area but Brian fears “demographic” changes may mean this local hero’s story is slipping from common knowledge: “There’s a lot more people who’ve moved into the area, whether that’s because of improved communications, or retirements or holiday homes. It was more notably Welsh in those days and Dic was a local hero.” 

For the current day crew of the Moelfre lifeboat there is no danger of them forgetting one of their own as Phil Williams of the lifeboat station explains: “Whenever we go the lifeboat station we walk past his bronze statue and think of what he achieved and that he put Moelfre Lifeboat Station on the map.” 

Dic, eyes peering across the Irish sea, towards the English coast, may look a lonely figure but he symbolises the sacrifice and dedication to others of lifeboat volunteers and the appreciation of a community that knows only too well the dangers of the sea. 

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