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The grandnephew of an RNLI bowman who was awarded the charity’s bronze medal for gallantry for his part in the daring rescue of 12 people from a Greek freighter back in 1938, has made a visit from the UK to Galway this week to present the Aran Islands lifeboat crew with a precious gift.

John Harwood’s grand uncle Patrick Flaherty was the bowman of the Galway Bay (now Aran Islands RNLI) motor lifeboat which was called out on the night of the 16-17 August 1938. He was subsequently awarded in recognition of his meritorious conduct when together with four other men he courageously manned a small boat and rescued the crew of 12 of the steam trawler ‘Nogi’ which had run aground near Straw Island Lighthouse, Aran Isles, during a strong westerly-south westerly wind with a very heavy sea.

An online article describes how a boat from the Hatano with four men went to her rescue and at once got into difficulties. The lifeboat went first to the small boat, the rowlock of which caught in the fender of the lifeboat, and there was danger of a serious accident. The motor mechanic jumped aboard the boat and smashed the rowlock with a hatchet. The four men were rescued and their boat towed away. It was impossible for the lifeboat to get alongside the Nogi but five of her crew manned the small boat; it was lowered by a rope down to the Nogi and in two journeys rescued the 11 men on board her. A member of the Nogi's crew had been swept away in the trawler's boat when she struck. His boots were found on an island, but it was only after eight hours' search that the man was found dazed and exhausted. The whole rescue had taken over 14 hours.

When John’s uncle Paddy who lived in the north west of England and worked most of his life as a miner, died in 1998, he left John his father’s citation for the bronze medal which is written on vellum.

Vellum RNLIHistoric Vellum returned to the Aran Islands

‘This always had pride of place in my uncle’s house,’ John explained, ‘and as a child he often told me the story about how his father and I think his older brother took part in the rescue. He also regaled me with tales of his life on Aran, particularly his connection with the sea. This influenced me in later life to love the sea and along with my wife I have had a 30 year passion for the sea as a diver and yachtsman.’

John’s visit to Galway yesterday evening (Wednesday 19 April) follows his decision to return the citation to Aran Islands RNLI.

‘As time marches on, I realise that there will be no one to appreciate the award when my wife and I are no longer here, so I think it is high time that the award is returned to the Aran Islands where it belongs. I believe that my uncle may still have family on the Islands. I think the award should lie with them or with the lifeboat station.’

John and his wife Mary met members of both Aran Islands and Galway RNLI in Rosaveal yesterday evening before John presented the citation on vellum to Aran Islands RNLI Coxswain John O’Donnell.

‘We are extremely touched by John and Mary’s generous gesture to place what is their precious heirloom into the care of Aran Islands lifeboat station. RNLI medals for gallantry are rare and are presented for acts of bravery and this was certainly the case on the night the lifeboat carried out the rescue of the Nogi in 1938. We are very grateful to receive this award from John and Mary and can assure them it will take pride of place in his granduncle Patrick Flaherty’s lifeboat station.’

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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An RNLI lifejacket worth £458 has been stolen from Portaferry lifeboat station in County Down.

The lifejacket, a vital part of a volunteer crew member’s kit, is thought to have been stolen sometime between 2 March and 10 April.

The unique lifejacket is designed specifically for search and rescue and is fitted with a water activated emergency light and integral flare pockets for day and night distress flares.

Brian Bailie, Portaferry RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager said: ‘The lifejacket is an expensive and essential piece of our volunteers’ crew kit. It was innovatively designed with search and rescue in mind which means it provides increased safety, efficiency and effectiveness for crew when they respond to a call out. On top of its features, it also holds zipped pockets for items including casualty care kit, torches and gloves and has a spray hood to protect against sea spray.

‘It will cost the RNLI almost £500 to replace this lifejacket which is a significant loss to the charity which relies on the public’s generosity to save lives at sea.’

Anyone with any information is asked to get in touch with the PSNI by calling 101 and quoting CC2017041700737.

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The 2017 World Irish Dancing Championships come to a close in Dublin today but not before a group of the budding dance stars swapped their pumps and hard shoes for the RNLI’s yellow wellies to show their support for Mayday, the charity’s annual national fundraising campaign which is calling out for people to ‘Do your bit, fund our kit’.

The talented troupe of Irish dancers who were competing in the 47th World Irish Dancing Championships organised by An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha, showed off their signature moves in bright yellow wellies in Dublin’s city centre to encourage the public to support Mayday, which is raising funds for crucial RNLI kit for the charity’s brave volunteer lifeboat crews.

Worn by generations of crews to grip the deck in slippery conditions, the iconic yellow wellies keep crew members safe and steady on stormy seas. Just like Irish dancing shoes, RNLI-issue sea boots have reinforced toecaps to protect the crews’ feet.

Doireann Ní Ryan from the Ryan School of Irish Dancing in Tipperary said: ‘Swapping my Irish dancing shoes for yellow wellies has been a humbling experience. I couldn’t dance without my pumps or hard shoes and the RNLI’s volunteers couldn’t save lives at sea without their yellow wellies and the rest of their lifesaving kit. So, I’d encourage everyone to visit RNLI.org/Mayday to see how they can support the RNLI’s Mayday campaign.’

Mayday distress calls can come in any time, day or night, 365 days a year, with volunteer crew members from 46 lifeboat stations in Ireland on standby to drop everything in an instant to save lives at sea.

Pauline McGann, RNLI Community Fundraising Manager said: ‘Our crews rely on lifesaving kit, like their yellow wellies, lifejackets and helmets, when they go out in all weathers to save lives at sea. From sponsored bike rides and welly walks, to running a bake sale, there are all sorts of ways to raise money for the RNLI this Mayday. Visit RNLI.org/Mayday to download a fundraising pack and see how you can do your bit to fund our kit.’

Money raised through Mayday fundraising events will help kit out RNLI lifeboat crews so they’re ready to face the harshest conditions at sea, with it costing €2,168 to provide an all-weather lifeboat crew member with all of the vital kit they need during a rescue.

Mayday fundraising events are taking place right across Ireland, many with a yellow welly theme.

In Dublin, a D class lifeboat will be on display in Grand Canal Square as yellow welly pin badges will be sold on Thursday and Friday 27 and 28 April from 10am to 4pm. An Atlantic 85 class lifeboat will be on display on Patrick Street in Cork city where badges will be on sale on the 28 and 29 April. Meanwhile, across the west of Ireland, badges will be on sale at various shopping centres and supermarkets over two weekends from the 29-30 April and 5-6 May. Mayday badges will also be on sale in Aldi stores on Mayday, Monday 1 May.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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On Saturday afternoon, Valentia Coast Guard requested Lough Derg RNLI Lifeboat to launch to assist 10 people after their 40ft cruiser ran aground by the Scilly Islands on Lough Derg. Valentia Coast Guard informed the lifeboat that the Killaloe Coast Guard RIB had also launched to assist.

At 5.45pm, the lifeboat launched with helm Eleanor Hooker, Ger Egan, and Keith Brennan on board. Winds was south-westerly, Force 4, gusting 5. Visibility was good. Valentia Coast Guard informed the lifeboat that the Killaloe Coast Guard RIB had also launched to assist.

The lifeboat arrived on scene at 6pm, the casualty vessel was aground north of the Scilly Islands. The Killaloe Coast Guard commenced an anchor and veering down to the casualty vessel. All ten people were unharmed and wearing their lifejackets. As the vessel was high on a rocky shelf, it was decided to transfer all casualties to Mountshannon Harbour, five on board Lough Derg RNLI lifeboat and five on board the Killaloe Coast Guard RIB, and where the land mobile Coast Guard unit was waiting to receive the casualties.

Both the lifeboat and the Coast Guard RIB returned to the casualty vessel. Once satisfied that the cruiser was not holed, she was safely taken off the rock shelf and towed by the Killaloe Coast Guard boat to Mountshannon.

Peter Kennedy, Deputy Launching Authority at Lough Derg RNLI Lifeboat, advises boat users to ‘bring charts with you and identify the areas close to shore and islands marked as not navigable, particularly as water levels are relatively low in the lake at the moment’.

The lifeboat returned to Station and was ready for service again at 7.53pm.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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All 25 members of the St Helier Lifeboat crew on Jersey have resigned along with five members of the admin & management team. It follows a meeting between the boats Coxswain, Andy Hibbs and the RNLI yesterday where he was asked to stand down, according to an ITV News report.

The Lifeboat organisation have released the following statement:
Due to breaches of the RNLI’s Volunteer Code of Conduct, the RNLI has asked one volunteer at St Helier lifeboat station to stand down with immediate effect. Other volunteers have chosen to step down, which has forced the RNLI to declare the St Helier lifeboats off service temporarily.

The RNLI has a duty of care to our volunteers and those we rescue, and must provide a safe and effective lifesaving service. We understand the impact of standing down volunteers and we do not take such decisions lightly.

We are working hard to bring in extra support and put the St Helier all-weather lifeboat back on service in the next couple of days.

In the meantime, we are working with our colleagues across the emergency services to provide an effective maritime rescue service.

Out of respect to all those involved in this confidential process we cannot go into more detail.

– RNLI SPOKESPERSON

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Donald Trump got his Shamrock from Taoiseach Enda Kenny through the work of a lifeboatman from Helvick Head writes Tom MacSweeney.

Eamonn Terry is owner of the crystal craft business Criostal na Rinne in the Waterford Gaeltacht of An Rinn which was chosen by the Taoiseach’s Office to provide the handmade crystal bowl in which Taoiseach Enda Kenny presented the Shamrock to US President Trump to mark St.Patrick’s Day.

Eamonn designed and cut the special crystal piece.

He has been involved in the Helvick Head Lifeboat Station since 1996. He first served as a Helmsman until he took up the position as Deputy Launching Authority (DLA) on retirement from the crew in 2000. In 2001 he was appointed Lifeboat Training Co-Ordinator (LTC) until he retired in March 2015. He was awarded an RNLI Inscribed Statuette at the 2013 RNLI Annual Awards in Dublin and was also presented with a token of appreciation for outstanding service on behalf of the crew by Colin Williams, Divisional Operations Manager at a ceremony in the Helvick Lifeboat Station on his retirement.

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Larne RNLI launched their all-weather lifeboat Dr John McSparron last night (Sunday 5 February) to evacuate a casualty having medical difficulties onboard a 160m bulk carrier vessel.

The volunteer lifeboat crew launched the lifeboat at 10pm following a request by the UK Coastguard to medically evacuate a ship engineer who was experiencing heart related medical issues. The crew quickly made their way to the 160m vessel approximately nine nautical miles north east of Larne.

Two crew members boarded the vessel and medically assessed the male casualty who had experienced cardiac difficulties. The casualty was treated appropriately prior to being transferred to the lifeboat. On arrival at the Port of Larne the lifeboat was met by Larne Coastguard Team and Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and the casualty was taken to hospital for further assessment.

Speaking following the call out, Norman Surplus, Larne RNLI Second Coxswain said: 'Any winter call outs at night, always demand an extra level of crew alertness and readiness. When this is combined with a medical evacuation, it adds up to an even greater level of technical complexity.

‘Our highly trained crew worked steadily as a team, with a calm efficiency that allowed the whole rescue to run quickly and very smoothly which is vital when a casualty is relying on us to deliver them safely ashore as soon as possible.

‘Thankfully sea conditions in the North Channel were quite calm and as the casualty vessel was very large, it allowed them to provide us with as much shelter as possible when we approached alongside, ideal conditions for a safe casualty transfer.’

Larne RNLI extended its thanks to Larne Port Control and the P&O European Highlander.

‘On their scheduled departure from Larne, the ferry's regular sail plan was quickly rearranged to take a northerly route out around the Hunter Rock. This allowed the lifeboat to hold course and maintain a direct, fastest approach straight into the harbour where we could land the casualty and pass him into the care of the Ambulance Service as quickly as possible.'

 
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The Irish Coast Guard and the RNLI are urging everyone to ‘Be Aware’ and ‘Respect the Water’ in the wake of recent warnings of poor weather hitting the Irish coast. While severe storms and flooding are highlighted nationally, people can be caught out very quickly with many accidents occurring due to strong winds, spring tides and heavy rainfall.

During times of bad weather the message from the RNLI and the Irish Coast Guard is to stay away from the water, give waves a wide berth, and be aware that in bad weather unexpected swells can easily catch people out. Even if the water itself looks calm, waves and tides can be very powerful and pull you off your feet.

Both organisations are advising that if you find yourself in the water unexpectedly, relax and float on your back to catch your breath and try to grab hold of something to keep you afloat. The initial shock of being in cold water can cause a person to gasp and panic. These initial effects of cold water pass in less than a minute, so don’t try to swim straight away. Keep calm, call for help, or swim for safety if you are able.

If you see someone in the water, call 999/112 and ask for the Coast Guard. If you have something that floats or that they can hold on to, throw it to them. Avoid going into the water yourself – many people drown trying to save others.

Gareth Morrison, RNLI Community Lifesaving Delivery Manager says: ‘Irish weather can be unpredictable at the best of times and our lifeboat crews have answered many call outs where people have been caught out by the weather unexpectedly taking a turn for the worse. We urge everyone to respect the water at all times and to keep safe and remind people not to underestimate the distance waves can travel up the beach or harbour wall. Although it can be tempting to get close, it isn’t worth risking your life to take photos or to dodge waves.’

Gareth continued: ‘If you plan on going out walking after a storm or high winds, be wary. Storms and high winds can change our landscape through coastal erosion so pay attention to warning signs, and don’t leave designated paths to look over the edge of clifftops.’

Gerard O’Flynn, Irish Coast Guard Operations Manager added: ‘For anybody planning on walking close to the shore, be it on a beach, cliff, public walkway or harbour facility is; Stay Back, Stay High, Stay Dry.’

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 Recruitment has opened in Northern Ireland for this summer’s crop of beach lifeguards and face to face fundraisers. Both roles are essential in supporting the RNLI’s aim to keep people safe and prevent tragedies around the North Coast and in County Down.

Successful applicants for beach lifeguarding will receive world class training in search and rescue, lifesaving and casualty care techniques, as well as boosting their CV’s with invaluable skills that will wow future employers.

Recruits will also be trained in using the latest lifesaving equipment including rescue boards, rescue tubes and defibrillators.

Mike Grocott, Area Lifesaving Manager said: ‘I think working as a lifeguard has got to be one of the RNLI’s best summer jobs. Of course it’s incredible to be able to call the beach your office but far more importantly than that, you are there to make sure the public enjoy it in the safest possible way.

‘But make no mistake. This is a demanding job requiring commitment, skill and a clear head. We want people with the courage, determination and the ability to draw on their training and make the right decision if someone’s life is in danger.’

‘We are now also recruiting for face to face fundraisers, who work alongside our lifeguards on the beaches on the north coast and in County Down during the summer to provide people with important safety advice. They also have a key role in raising money for the charity so that it can continue providing a lifesaving service.’

Applicants will need to be a dynamic and positive ambassador for the charity, actively engaging with communities and inspiring support for our work to prevent the loss of life on the water.

Speaking of the face to face fundraising role, Mr Grocott added:
‘A good fundraiser generally has to be friendly and relaxed, but also energetic, able to talk to anyone and have fun and be passionate about what they do.

‘We will provide quality training which will make sure you feel confident and capable by the time summer begins. You’ll be developing new skills, having fun and working at the beach, this has to be one of RNLI’s best summer jobs.’

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Arranmore RNLI rescued four fishermen this morning after their 70ft boat got into difficulty off the Donegal coast.

The crew of the vessel which was travelling from Greencastle to Killybegs, raised the alarm before 7am after the boat developed steering problems some six nautical miles from Killybegs.

The all-weather lifeboat under Coxswain Jimmy Early launched at 7am and made its way to the scene which was approximately an hour and a half’s journey from Arranmore.

Once on scene, the volunteer lifeboat crew put a rope onboard the boat and worked with the fishermen to set up a tow line. However, due to a swell up to a metre and a half and south to south westerly Force 6-7 winds, the tow rope broke following set up. Once it was re-established, the lifeboat proceeded at slow speed due to the size of the fishing vessel, and made its way to Killybegs where it arrived with the vessel in tow at 11am.

Speaking following the call out, Tony Ward, Arranmore RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager said: ‘The fishermen did the right thing this morning and called for assistance when they started to encounter difficulties. Weather conditions made the tow challenging but using their skills and training, our lifeboat crew were able to get the line re-established and bring the men safely to shore.’

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