WHEN four-month-old Toby John Keates was christened with blessed water in an upturned ship’s bell it followed a family tradition.
Wearing a special T-shirt saying ‘crewman in training’ the baby took pride of place on Weymouth’s all-weather lifeboat yesterday where his dad Matt Keates and grandad Graham Keates are RNLI volunteers.
The ceremony was held outside the lifeboat station on Weymouth’s Nothe Parade, 27 years after Matt became the first baby to be christened on the life-saving vessel.
Since that day in September 1985, dozens more babies have been blessed using water in the upturned ship’s bell but for the Keates’ family, yesterday’s service was poignant as for them it marked a ‘full circle’.
RNLI crewman and proud dad Matt, of Rodwell, said: “It was a bit emotional. It was amazing, the rain stopped as we walked out of the lifeboat station and started again as we finished, it was perfect really.”
Matt, who works as a Weymouth sea cadet instructor and has served as an RNLI volunteer for 10 years, added: “Me, my dad and my brother-in-law are all on the lifeboat crew.
“Toby was wearing a specially-made T-shirt with ‘crewman to be’ written on the back.”
Grandfather Graham 56, has been a RNLI crew member for 30 years and works as a teaching assistant at Westfield Arts College.
He said: “As far as we know Matt was the first baby to be christened on the lifeboat.
“It was a much sunnier day and it featured in the Echo.
“My son-in-law Tye Shuttleworth is also on the RNLI crew as a deputy coxon.
“Tye and my daughter Sarah’s son Leo was also christened on the lifeboat 18 months ago.
“Toby is my second grandchild to be christened on the boat but it’s an important day for us because Matt was the first baby to do so – it’s gone full circle.”
He added: “I’m not really sure where the idea came from, I suppose in the Navy they tend to do all the christenings with the ship’s bell.
“We started a trend, quite a few babies have been christened on there since.
“The Reverend Anne Dunn blessed the water in the bell, which we clamped upside down on a rail.
“It’s exactly the same service as in church except without hymns.”
The afternoon ceremony on the lifeboat marked a double celebration as Matt’s partner Jo Hallett’s daughter Olivia, aged six, was also christened.
The Rev Dunn of Holy Trinity Church, Wey-mouth led the service on board in the presence of the parents and godparents while other friends and family members gathered alongside on the pontoon.
A reception was then held at Weymouth Police Station, where mum Jo volunteers as a Special Constable.