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As the RNLI commemorates the charity’s 200 years of lifesaving this year, Lough Derg RNLI celebrates 20 years of service on the lake.

Last Sunday afternoon (12 May), volunteers past and present at the Lough Derg lifeboat station gathered with their families and RNLI staff members at Lough Derg Yacht Club to celebrate the milestone.

Christine O’Malley, lifeboat operations manager at Lough Derg RNLI and MC for the event welcomed everyone, especially those who’d travelled long distances to join the celebration.

Christine, a retired consultant geriatrician, talked about taking on the role of LOM five years earlier, and the “steep learning curve” as she absorbed the responsibilities involved, met the challenges and celebrated the rewards.

She then introduced Niamh McCutcheon, chair of the Lough Derg fundraising committee and an RNLI vice-president.

Niamh — who had been fundraising locally for the RNLI for decades before the lifeboat was stationed on Lough Derg — praised the tireless work of the fundraising committee who, in tandem with the volunteer crews, have raised awareness of and donations to the RNLI, thus facilitating the charity’s goals to save every one.

She also spoke of her pride in the seeing volunteers from Lough Derg RNLI at the Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey in March.

Christine invited Niamh Stephenson, RNLI communications lead for Ireland, to speak next. Over the years Niamh and her colleague Nuala McAloon, RNLI regional communications manager for Ireland, have made themselves available to offer sage advice and guidance to the station’s lifeboat press officer on all media related matters.

Lough Derg RNLI’s inshore lifeboat Jean Spicer launched from the lifeboat station | Credit: RNLI/Eleanor HookerLough Derg RNLI’s inshore lifeboat Jean Spicer launched from the lifeboat station | Credit: RNLI/Eleanor Hooker

Niamh recalled her first stopover at Lough Derg RNLI — almost 20 year ago — and the warm welcome she received, including the daunting mountain of food volunteers had cooked for her visit.

Niamh spoke about the essential role of media and the bridge it forged between the activities of the lifeboat station and the public. She spoke of how media communications inspired support for the charity and attracted new volunteers to the crew and fundraising, as well as amplifying water safety messages for a new generation.

To thank past volunteers for their continued support, Christine invited area lifesaving manager Lisa Hollingum to speak and to present former crew with RNLI200 badges. Lisa commended the volunteers at Lough Derg RNLI for their dedication and commitment to maintaining the RNLIs high standard in all they do, and she looked forward to visiting the station again soon.

Liam Maloney, launching authority and former LOM at Lough Derg RNLI; Dr Peter Hooker, lifeboat medical advisor; and Eleanor Hooker, volunteer helm and lifeboat press officer had asked that Helena Duggan, RNLI assessor/trainer at Lough Derg RNLI from 2003 until 2022, present them with their 20-year Long Service Medals.

Helena recalled her early visits to the new lifeboat station at Lough Derg with her colleagues, the late Michael Carmody and Derek Potter, and the enthusiasm from volunteers as the station became established.

In a philosophical consideration of time, Helena stressed that the RNLI hugely appreciates the hours volunteers put into training, exercises and shouts, and that “every second you give to the RNLI is precious time, your time, and is never taken for granted”.

She made special mention too of the sacrifices and allowances families make so that volunteers may volunteer. Helena described the vast network of people, volunteers and staff, who work as a team to make the RNLI the organisation it is today.

The crew were honoured that current assessor/trainer Seán Ginnelly would travel all the way from Achill to join the celebrations.

Cutting the cake at last Sunday’s celebration at Lough Derg Yacht Club | Credit: RNLICutting the cake at last Sunday’s celebration at Lough Derg Yacht Club | Credit: RNLI

After receiving his medal from Helena, Liam Maloney gave a moving history of the origins of the RNLI lifeboat station on the lake. He acknowledged the successful proposal made to the RNLI by Teddy Knight and Charles Stanley Smith.

Carrig Primary School, where Liam was headmaster, provided a venue for new volunteers to have shore training in the year before the lifeboat went live for service on 24 April 2004. He smiled as he told us he taught many of past and current volunteers in the room. Liam recollected previous callouts, his anxiety for crew out in testing conditions and one in particular on a St Stephen’s Day morning that thankfully had a positive outcome.

Eleanor Hooker thanked Aoife Kennedy, lifeboat station administrator and launching authority and her sister Doireann Kennedy, volunteer crew, for organising the entire event, including having volunteers bake and cook for the reception to follow the speeches.

Eleanor recollected earlier times with former volunteers and the collegiate spirit among all at the station. She spoke of the mutual trust and teamwork — essential ingredients at a lifeboat station.

Eleanor welcomed James Corballis, an RNLI volunteer who has moved to the area from Galway RNLI, to the station. She congratulated Laura Clarke, chair of the Lap the Lake fundraising Committee on the incredible success of the RNLI charity cycle the previous day.

On receiving his Long Service Medal, consultant anaesthesist Dr Peter Hooker joked that “normally people fell asleep after a few minutes of my talking to them”, and so promised he would keep his words brief. He said it was an honour to be a part of the Lough Derg RNLI team and wanted, especially to thank Helena for her years of teaching and care and friendship at the station.

Christine thanked all present and invited the assembly to move upstairs to enjoy an afternoon tea.

“It was lovely to see so many people who have supported the lifeboat station over the years, whether on the water, off the water, through fundraising or the RNLI support team,” she said. “These are the people who helped make the Lifeboat Station into the excellent service we have today.

“It was great to acknowledge the remarkable 20 years of commitment to the station from Liam Maloney, Eleanor Hooker and Peter Hooker with Long Service Awards from the RNLI. A huge thank you to all our volunteers, past and present, and to their families, who have all given so much to create and sustain this lifesaving service on Lough Derg.”

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The Port of Cork Company in partnership with the RNLI hosted over 100 secondary and primary school students at the port in Ringaskiddy on Wednesday (15 May) for a “Student Safe” water safety event to promote heightened awareness of water safety practices.

The key purpose of this RNLI “Student Safe” event was to inform and educate students on vital water safety information to help prepare them when engaging in water-related activities ahead of the summer season.

Since the first RNLI lifeboat station in Ireland was established in 1826, the charity has saved an estimated 8,357 lives at sea and aided a further 35,477 people.

As emergency water rescue operations often consist of a multi-agency approach, representatives from the National Ambulance Service, Community First Responders and the Irish Coast Guard were also in attendance and offered student groups the opportunity to engage on a one-to-one basis, ask questions and receive potentially lifesaving information.

This water safety event formed part of a larger collaboration between the Port of Cork and RNLI aimed at promoting essential life-saving water safety practices.

Earlier this year, promotional materials containing water safety tips were posted and erected within the main Ferry Terminal building at the port in Ringaskiddy, which welcomed 116,000 ferry passengers passing through in 2023.

Conor Mowlds, chief commercial officer at the Port of Cork Company praised the event: “It is incredibly important that young people are equipped with the correct knowledge and skills should they encounter difficulties on the water. Events such as this help to broaden water safety awareness to help mitigate emergency and life-threatening incidents.”

Mowlds added: “The Port of Cork is actively committed to working with the RNLI and other emergency service partners to promote water safety practices that create a safe environment for the local community and visitors in the Cork Harbour area.”

Linda-Gene Byrne, RNLI regional water safety lead said: “The RNLI saves lives at sea. But beyond the work we do on our lifeboats, we’re an active part of the community too.

“We are delighted to partner with other emergency services and the Port of Cork to deliver this community based event which enables local students to receive key safety messages.
“We would like to thank the Port of Cork for providing us the space and their support for this Student Safe event and all the schools for attending with their students. All the partners here today are so appreciative to have a space to work together to keep our communities safe.

“If any other schools would like to receive water safety talks that teach the young people in your classroom or group how to stay safe in, on and around the water we’re here to help.”

Two local schools, Coláiste Muire Réalt na Mara Crosshaven and Ringaskiddy Lower Harbour NS, attended the event at Ringaskiddy.

Published in Port of Cork
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The volunteer crew of Wicklow RNLI responded to two consecutive distress calls last Thursday (May 9th). The first call came in just before 1pm, reporting that two kayakers had capsized in the River Vartry, which flows into Wicklow Harbour. The inshore lifeboat, helmed by Paul Sillery, wasted no time and swiftly reached the scene.

On arrival, the crew found one casualty safe ashore while the other remained in the water. The crew promptly retrieved the second casualty and brought them to safety, also recovering the capsized kayak.

The second call, received just before 3 pm, summoned the crew to aid a 37ft motor vessel experiencing steering difficulties. The all-weather lifeboat, the Joanna and Henry Williams, was launched to assist the distressed vessel, located five miles northeast of Wicklow Harbour. After establishing contact with the skipper, it was determined that the vessel could make its way to the harbour, with the lifeboat crew providing an escort. Once at the harbour, the lifeboat facilitated a safe alongside tow to manoeuvre the vessel alongside the pier

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Galway RNLI’s volunteer crew were requested to launch by the Irish Coast Guard shortly before 4pm on Friday afternoon (10 May) following a call by a member of the public reporting four people on Hare Island cut off by the tide.

The lifeboat crew who responded to the call were David Badger, Olivia Byrne, Dave McGrath and James Corballis, the latter on his last call-out with Galway RNLI before leaving saltwater behind for the fresh lake water of Lough Derg.

Launching their Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat within 10 minutes, the crew made their way from the lifeboat station to Hare Island where they carried out a full search of the island, without finding the four people reported stranded.

The crew then received confirmation from the coastguard that the four people had made it back to the mainland safely, which involved swimming the last stretch to the shore.

James Corballis, who was on his last shout with Galway RNLI on Friday 10 May before moving to Lough Derg RNLI | Credit: RNLI/Aoife MorrissyJames Corballis, who was on his last shout with Galway RNLI on Friday 10 May before moving to Lough Derg RNLI | Credit: RNLI/Aoife Morrissy

Lifeboat helm David Badger said: “In the event that you find yourself cut off by an incoming tide on Hare Island or any other coastal walk, our advice is to stay put and stay high and dry and not to attempt to make it to shore. Call 112 or 999 and ask for the coastguard.

“Conditions today were good with flat calm water and good visibility, but things can change very quickly by the water. If you are heading out on the water or planning a walk by the sea, always take a means to call for help and check the tides before you set off. Tide times and heights vary throughout the month and can easily catch you out if you haven’t checked them.

“There was a good outcome today and that is the main thing. And it was a fine afternoon for the last shout for our crew mate James who is leaving Galway RNLI and moving inland to join the Lough Derg RNLI crew. Hopefully his lasting memory of Galway will be in the warm sunshine to make up for the years of cold, rainy days and nights at sea.”

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A three-month-old baby was among a family of six rescued by Clifden RNLI in western Connemara on Thursday evening (9 May).

The volunteer crew were tasked by the Irish Coast Guard at 6.15pm to assist a group who were cut off by the tide on Omey Island.

Clifden’s Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat was launched by volunteer helm Kenny Flaherty with Daniel Whelan, David O’Reilly and Shane Conneely as crew.

Weather conditions were good with calm seas, and the lifeboat crew had no difficulty locating the walkers on the island.

The family — which included grandparents, a baby, two young children and their dog — were found to be well and did not require medical assistance.

They were returned to the shore at Claddaghduff where Cleggan Coast Guard and additional lifeboat crew provided further assistance and ensured the family got back to their accommodation safely.

Speaking after the shout, Clifden RNLI helm Kenny Flaherty said: “We would remind locals and visitors to always check tide times and heights before venturing out to Omey and to always make sure you have enough time to return safely.

“If you do get cut off by the tide, it is important to stay where you are and not attempt a return to shore on your own as that may be when the danger presents and you get into difficulty.

“Always carry a means of communication and should you get into difficulty or see someone else in trouble, dial 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

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Enniskillen RNLI came to aid of two people on Tuesday (7 May) after their boat ran aground near Belleek, Co Fermanagh in Northern Ireland.

The volunteer crew launched their inshore lifeboat, the John and Jean Lewis, at 2.30pm following a request from Belfast Coastguard to go to the aid of those onboard a 21ft vessel.

Winds were southerly, Force 2 at the time and visibility was good.

Helmed by Paul Keown and with three crew onboard, the lifeboat made way to the vicinity of Rough Island before locating the vessel.

The lifeboat crew assessed the situation before assisting those onboard the casualty boat to get their vessel afloat again, ensuring all onboard were safe before returning to station.

Speaking following the call-out, Keown said: “We were glad to be of assistance. We would always advise all boat users to plan their route and carry out regular checks of their vessels prior to going afloat.

“Always remember, if you get into difficulties on the water, the number to call is 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

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The Clogherhead RNLI station in County Louth is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, marking over a century of dedicated service to saving lives at sea. Established in 1899 under the auspices of the RNLI, the station was built with a corrugated galvanised iron boathouse on a concrete foundation and a short slipway. The first lifeboat placed there was the 'Charles Whitton,' which cost £582 at that time.

Today, the lifeboat station in Clogherhead houses a much more technologically advanced boat than the vessels that served the northeast coastline in the past. Nevertheless, the volunteer crew proudly employs it to do the same job as all its predecessors over the last 125 years—to help save lives at sea.

The Clogherhead RNLI's 125th anniversary is a proud milestone for the village and the wider community. The crew members are 'on call' 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, ready to respond to a personal pager that can sound at any time of the day or night. For that reason, the volunteer crew members live locally, and it's wonderful to see their level of commitment to their regular training exercises and availability to launch and crew the lifeboat at a moment's notice.

Clogherhead RNLI station in County Louth is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year

Personnel within the RNLI closely monitor the level of training required for shore and boat crew. Volunteer administrators, fundraisers, and RNLI Shop staff at Clogherhead RNLI also work together to keep the 'boat afloat.'

The RNLI is often confused with government agencies that are funded by the state, but it is, and always has been, a charitable organization depending on public support. It is a testament to that unwavering support that the Clogherhead station is still in existence 125 years on, manned by a crew of volunteers, as has always been the case down through the years.

The station at Clogherhead now has a state-of-the-art Shannon class all-weather lifeboat, the 'Michael O'Brien,' which arrived in 2019. It serves the north-east coast in collaboration with its sister stations in Skerries and Kilkeel, often with the Coast Guard land and air facilities and the Garda.

To mark the occasion, the Clogherhead RNLI station is hosting a series of events on the weekend of Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th of May. On Saturday 18th at 10.30 a.m., there will be a Clogherhead RNLI 125 Celebration Dip at the little strand, where sea swimmers are invited to participate in an aerial photo on the beach in 1-2-5 formation before a dip in the sea. Light refreshments will be available in the station afterwards.

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RNLI coxswain Mark Gannon with West Cork’s Courtmacsherry lifeboat was on a call out in December 1981 when he and his crew heard over the radio about the Penlee lifeboat disaster - when an entire lifeboat crew was lost off the Cornish coast.

Two years before that, Gannon was at sea with Courtmacsherry during the response to the Fastnet yacht race.

A happier experience was his involvement with the rescue of 30 crew and trainees when the Astrid tall ship went aground off Kinsale in 2013.

Gannon runs the Courtmacsherry Sea Angling Centre and Atlantic Whale Watching and Wildlife Tours.

Although he was the first in the family to volunteer for the lifeboat, he was quickly followed by his two brothers, Adrian and Dara, and his wife Trish.

Gannon is now making a call-out for support for the RNLI’s “Free Wills Month”, where people in Dublin or Cork over 55 years of age can avail of free legal advice to make or update a will.

Although people using the “Free Wills Month” service are not obliged to leave a gift in their will to the RNLI, the charity hopes people will consider doing so to help fund its lifesaving service.

As the RNLI’s Legacy Income Manager, Eifron Hopper says: ‘Six out of every ten RNLI lifeboat launches are only possible due to gifts left in wills. “Free Wills Month” is a great opportunity for people to write or update a will, and help power the RNLI’s lifesaving future.”

Occasionally the charity receives a large gift, but smaller legacies make a big difference too, the RNLI says.

For example, it says that a gift in a will of €694 is enough to equip a beach lifeguard; €908 could pay for a drysuit to protect an inshore lifeboat crew member; while €1,579 will provide the training for a lifeboat crew member for a whole year.

For more information – including details of solicitors in Cork or Dublin participating in “Free Wills Month” – call 01 511 9870 or email [email protected].

For general information about Free Wills Month Ireland, visit RNLI.org/FreeWillsIreland

Mark Gannon spoke to Wavelengths about his time with RNLI Courtmacsherry, and how important “Free Wills Month” is, and his interview is below

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In a dramatic rescue operation, a sheep fell from a ledge in the Waterford Estuary and was saved from being engulfed by the rising tide. The incident occurred on Wednesday, prompting the Irish Coast Guard to dispatch the volunteer lifeboat crew at Fethard RNLI to the scene.

The crew, led by volunteer Helm Mick Roche and comprising Natasha Blanchfield, Eoin Bird and Diarmuid Bird, launched their boat from Duncannon and headed to the area known locally as Lady’s Bay, where the animal was stranded.

After arriving at the scene, the crew observed the sheep in distress and quickly sprang into action. Crew member Diarmuid Bird bravely entered the water, retrieved the sheep, and brought it to safety on a nearby pebble beach.

Reflecting on the incident, Helm Mick Roche stressed the importance of being cautious and vigilant around the sea and waterside. "This evening's launch highlights the importance of taking care and being wary of all edges around the sea and waterside.

Slips and falls happen in all kinds of locations, not just high cliff edges," he said.

The rescue operation was carried out under fine weather conditions, with a light southerly breeze in the Waterford Estuary. 

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RNLI trustee and Red Bay lifeboat coxswain Paddy McLaughlin has been presented with the Lifesaving Foundation’s Ireland Medal in recognition of his outstanding work in saving lives from drowning.

The medal was presented by Commodore Micheal Malone, Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Service, during a ceremony held at South-East Technological University in Waterford city, which was attended by major figures in the field of drowning prevention study.

The Ireland Medal is awarded each year to an individual or organisation that has made a significant contribution to saving lives from drowning.

This specially commissioned medal was introduced in 2003 and past awardees include the Naval Service, Professor Michael Tipton and Dr Paddy Morgan. The award was made to an RNLI representative during the charity’s bicentenary year.

Paddy McLaughlin has been a volunteer with the charity since 1981, when he joined his local lifeboat station in Cushendal, Co Antrim in Northern Ireland.

A coxswain on the station’s Trent class lifeboat, he has also served as both a helm and crew on the station’s inshore lifeboats, which have included the D-class, C-class, Atlantic 21, Atlantic 75 and the present-day Atlantic 85.

Paddy became a member of the RNLI’s Ireland Council in 2012 and the RNLI’s Council in 2014. He is currently the deputy chair of the Irish Council and has been a member of the RNLI’s People Committee since 2019. In 2020, Paddy joined the charity’s Board of Trustees.

Commodore Micheal Malone of the Naval Service (front row, second from left) and Paddy McLaughlin (first from right) with other guests and dignitaries at the Lifesaving Foundation’s awards ceremony at SETU recently | Credit: George Goulding/SETUCommodore Micheal Malone of the Naval Service (front row, second from left) and Paddy McLaughlin (first from right) with other guests and dignitaries at the Lifesaving Foundation’s awards ceremony at SETU recently | Credit: George Goulding/SETU

As an active member of his local community, Paddy is an advocate for partnerships and local enterprise. He was the architect of the RNLI’s hugely successful partnership with the GAA, one of Ireland’s largest sports organisations, which for the last seven years has seen both organisations working alongside each other across Ireland and the UK, with the shared goal of saving lives from drowning.

On receiving his award, Paddy paid tribute to the many people who have volunteered for the charity over the last 200 years and made a plea for organisations to continue to work together to end drowning.

“This award is a huge honour for me and I am humbled to receive it on behalf of the thousands of RNLI volunteers who have given their time, their commitment and their passion, to saving lives and preventing drowning over the last two centuries,” Paddy said.

“Whether through my lifeboat role at my station in Co Antrim on the North Coast of Ireland, as a trustee for the charity or being involved in incredible partnerships, I am grateful to have had so many opportunities to work alongside the best people and to see the difference the charity has made and continues to make in so many people’s lives.

“I hope the RNLI will continue to work through partnerships and engagement with the many groups and organisations who seek to end drowning at home and globally.”

Also attending the ceremony was RNLI’s head of water safety Gareth Morrison, who added: “I have worked with Paddy on many projects for the RNLI, including the GAA partnership, and it is fitting that he has been recognised for his many years of service and outstanding work.

“This prestigious award, which has been given to so many leaders and organisations in the field of drowning prevention, is an acknowledgement of the power of our people to bring about significant change and help others. To receive this award in the charity’s 200th year is a great honour and Paddy is a worthy recipient.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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About the Loughs Agency

The Loughs Agency is a governmental body established under the 1998 Agreement between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of Ireland. The Agency's goal is to provide sustainable social, economic, and environmental benefits by effectively conserving, managing, promoting, and developing the fisheries and marine resources of the Foyle and Carlingford areas.

The Agency's governing legislation confers several specific functions, including the promotion of development of Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough for commercial and recreational purposes in respect of marine, fishery, and aquaculture matters. Moreover, the Agency is responsible for managing, conserving, protecting, improving, and developing the inland fisheries of the Foyle and Carlingford areas. Additionally, the Agency has the task of developing and licensing aquaculture, as well as the development of marine tourism.

The Loughs Agency reports to the North South Ministerial Council and its government Sponsor Departments, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland, and the Department of the Environment, Climate, and Communications (DECC) in Ireland. The Departments fund the Agency on an equal basis.

The Loughs Agency's focus on sustainable development is expected to have a positive impact on the economy, environment, and local communities in the Foyle and Carlingford areas. The Agency's efforts to conserve and enhance the region's marine resources, including fisheries and aquaculture, are expected to benefit local communities, promote tourism, and contribute to economic growth.

In conclusion, the Loughs Agency plays a vital role in promoting the sustainable social, economic, and environmental development of the Foyle and Carlingford areas. Its work on marine conservation and development is crucial in ensuring the long-term viability of the region's natural resources and in promoting sustainable economic growth.