A CHARITY is celebrating the 30th anniversary of a service which provides free sailing trips for the elderly and disabled.

Hythe-based Solent Dolphin operates a motor vessel named after one of the 35 victims of the Clapham rail disaster in December 1988.

Two weeks before Christmas a crowded commuter train crashed into the back of another train which had stopped at a signal just south of Clapham Junction.

The victims included Alison MacGregor, 32, who loved to sail in the Lymington area.

New Forest Post:

After attending a memorial service at Winchester Cathedral her parents, Jimmy and Muriel MacGregor, heard about an appeal launched to raise enough money to a build a boat which could take elderly and disabled people on voyages along Southampton Water.

They were keen sailors themselves and made a large donation which enabled the project to go ahead.

The first boat to be named after Alison was launched in 1989 by Falklands veteran Simon Weston, who agreed to become Solent Dolphin's patron.

The charity is currently operating Alison MacGregor III, a purpose-built vessel which can carry up to 12 passengers including six wheelchair users.

Solent Dolphin stages as many as three two-hour trips a day from Hythe Marina, with sailings taking place seven days a week during the five-month season.

New Forest Post:

Every year the volunteer skippers and crew members stage 350 cruises for a total of 3,500 passengers.

The 30th anniversary celebration took place after members of the New Forest Parkinson's Group returned from a two-hour trip.

Around 100 invited guests attended the get-together, including past and present volunteers.

Representatives from Hythe Ukulele Group presented Solent Dolphin with a £1,000 cheque which was accepted by Alan Blair, a founder member of the organisation.

Devised by New Forest Rotary Club, Solent Dolphin was presented with the Queen's Award for Voluntary Services in 2015.