A BASINGSTOKE woman who has been raising money for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) since the age of ten was given a special birthday treat by playing her part in the launch of a new lifeboat.

Joan Webb, who celebrates her 100th birthday on Monday, was invited to ring the ceremonial bell at the launch of the latest Shannon class lifeboat from the charity’s base in Poole.

Despite approaching her centenary, Joan has no plans to slow down her voluntary efforts and was recently fundraising for the charity outside Morrisons supermarket in Basingstoke.

To recognise her efforts on her centenary, the charity invited her to be the guest of honour at the launch of the latest Shannon class lifeboat from the charity’s All-Weather Lifeboat Centre in Poole.

Joan believes supporting the RNLI from her home in Basingstoke is just as important as if she lived right on the coastline. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Joan said: “My mother was a loyal RNLI supporter, so she got me involved first. I remember standing eagerly with her while she volunteered at church-gate collections when I was four or five years old, as tall as her waist."

Her family would often tell her tales of RNLI volunteers saving lives at sea, exceeding 142,700 since the charity was founded in 1824.

Dan Sharp, a manager at RNLI, said: “Joan has helped the charity in a multitude of ways since she started volunteering for the Basingstoke and District RNLI Branch back in the early 80s. She would often help with supermarket collections, coffee mornings and Christmas card sales.

“In 1985, she took on the role of box secretary at the branch so was responsible for collecting and distributing fundraising boxes in shops, bars and restaurants for over 20 years.

“This isn’t the first time the RNLI has recognised what a huge asset Joan has been to the charity. The RNLI awarded Joan with the Bronze Badge in 1997, the Silver Badge in 2004 and the Gold Badge in 2016.”

Though she was born in Alderley Edge, Cheshire, Joan has been a familiar face around Basingstoke for more than 30 years. As well as her work for the RNLI, Joan continues to act as a room steward at nearby National Trust property The Vyne.

A skilled linguist, Joan spent much of her career working overseas in Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Service. She worked for more than two decades at the British Embassy in Bonn, then capital of the former West Germany, moving back to the UK in the 1980s.

Last weekend, the Basingstoke Macular Society Support Group took a break from its usual meeting to honour Joan’s milestone with a surprise.

The group got together to arrange a party for Joan ahead of her 100th birthday. The group was also joined on the day by Tom McInulty, regional manager for the Macular Society, to pass on the charity’s best wishes to Joan, who is a long-standing member of the Society.

Joan said: “It was such a lovely surprise – I can’t thank everyone enough for arranging this for me. I’ve been coming to the group for such a long time now and it’s just lovely. There’s lots of variety; all my friends here are great company, we have lots of good speakers, regular events and trips out.

“I had a cataract operation some years ago, and after they had been removed, that was when I was told I had macular degeneration. It’s a bit like looking at everything through a pane of frosted glass, but I’m still able to recognise people by what they’re wearing or by the sound of their voice. “

“I like to keep fairly busy – I think the key is to stay joyful and enjoy everything you do.”

"My friends and the staff at the sheltered scheme where I live now have also arranged a party for me on my actual birthday, so I’m being thoroughly spoilt.”