First-ever female station officer takes the reins on island

One of the youngest ever female station officers has taken charge of a Scottish island team.

The new head of Tiree Coastguard Rescue Team, Louise Reid, has become the first-ever female station officer on the island and is among the youngest female station officers anywhere in the UK.

She is no stranger to breaking down barriers having become the first female volunteer on the island when she signed up in 2017.

Her management perfectly illustrates the changing face of HM Coastguard; to one that truly embraces the inclusion of women in its teams.

In fact, this is reflected in the number of women that have entered the Coastguard’s ranks since the start of 2021; with 25 per cent of our current female cohort of Coastguard Rescue Officers having signed up since 1 January 2021.

The 28-year-old is flanked by deputy Hayley Douglas and sister Megan Reid, in a now majority female team.

From left: Hayley Douglas, Station Officer Louise Reid and sister Megan Reid ready to respond to whatever incident comes in

The three represent a significant changing of the guard of the coastguard not just on the Isle of Tiree – the most westerly island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland – but nationwide, as it is believed that Louise is among the youngest ever female Station Officers (SO) anywhere in the UK. 

Louise said that she may have been the first woman to ever volunteer for the team, but change has come quickly since. Megan signed up in 2019, followed by Hayley last year.

And, alongside sister Megan, is a rare example – possibly unique in the service – of coastguarding sisters.

Louise said: “It’s strange to be the first really; I was the first female coastguard in Tiree and it hasn’t always been easy, even if I have felt really supported. I don’t really see myself as a trailblazer or anything like that, I just signed up because I wanted to.

“There were some worries raised about sharing facilities, a few things said, but it didn’t take long for everyone to see that there wasn’t really an issue and being female didn’t really matter much. And when the SO position then came up, I was really nervous and not sure about going for it, but the team pushed me forward, said I would be great and gave me the confidence to apply.”

Coastguarding sisters Louise and Megan

She said the position has been a ‘real learning curve’ but one she has enjoyed. She is now a fully qualified SO having just passed the necessary training to be an Officer in Charge. She explained that their flank team in Tobermory had been helping, while she was training.

Louise said: “It is something I am very proud of, being the first woman in the local team. I hope that I have helped to show other women that they can sign up as well.

“I think it’s so important to encourage others, I have always loved the Coastguard and secretly wanted to join, but I had to build up the courage, knowing I would be the first woman.

“I’m not sure why it took me a few years of thinking about it before I did it, I just felt like it wasn’t a place that would let me in, I was so wrong.

“And once I signed up, the floodgates opened as Megan wasn’t that far behind in 2019 and Hayley joined last year as well.

“I think having women in the team means we’re more approachable as a service to women – both for people looking to sign up but also for the people we rescue – and I am very proud to be involved with helping to change what a traditional team looks like.”

Senior Coastal Operations Officer Kathrine Duffin agreed, as she described it as ‘a really special time on Tiree’.

“I’m so pleased with how the team are coming together – yes, they are all quite new but they are determined, hardworking and enthusiastic.

“We’re all breaking new ground, I’m very proud to be a female senior officer with a female-led team under my remit, it shows how far the Coastguard has come from a few decades ago when you would find it hard to find a female coastguard.

“It is a modern service that represents a modern Scotland, and modern UK.”

Popular posts from this blog

VIDEO: Woman rescued by helicopter as waves smash rocky outcrop

Fisherman survives overboard ordeal with personal locator beacon lighting the way for the coastguard rescue

April showers: Safety warning from HM Coastguard