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RNLI Honours Volunteers, Celebrates 190 Years In Belfast

21st June 2014
RNLI Honours Volunteers, Celebrates 190 Years In Belfast

#RNLI - The RNLI brought two of its all-weather lifeboats into Belfast on Wednesday 17 June for the charity’s 190th anniversary of saving lives at sea.

To mark the milestone, the RNLI hosted an awareness day in the Titanic Quarter with a full display of their life saving equipment including the Severn and Trent class all-weather lifeboats, RNLI beach lifeguards and their vehicles and the Flood Rescue kit.

The lifeboats were crewed by volunteer lifeboat crew members from Northern Ireland lifeboat stations.

First Minister Peter Robinson visited the event to meet with the RNLI lifeguards and volunteer lifeboat crew, view the lifesaving equipment and learn about the work of the charity in Northern Ireland.

The First Minister also boarded the Severn class lifeboat for a short trip around Belfast Harbour.

"We wanted to bring a little bit of the RNLI to Belfast city," said RNLI divisional operations manager Gareth Morrison. "There is huge awareness of the work of the charity out on coast and at the inland stations where we are present but we wanted to bring our volunteers and equipment into the city for people to see.

"With the awards taking place in the Titanic centre it was a fitting way to mark 190 years saving lives."

The day culminated with the RNLI Annual Presentation of Awards for Northern Ireland fundraising and operational volunteers, which this year was held at Titanic Belfast.

RNLI volunteers and supporters from across Northern Ireland were recognised for their dedication and commitment to raising funds and awareness for the lifesaving charity and for playing a pivotal role in ensuring lifeboat crews and lifeguards can continue to save lives at sea.

Guest of honour and presenting the awards was RNLI chairman Charles Hunter-Pease, who was attending his first awards ceremony in Northern Ireland since taking up his role with the charity last year.

The awards included five gold badges, three silver badges, six bronze badges, 14 inscribed statuettes, six regional supporter awards and six certificates of thanks.

Among the gold badge recipients was Rita Jarvis from the Bangor branch, who was described as an outstanding volunteer who had worked tirelessly for over 20 years for Bangor RNLI.

Hubert Annett from Kilkeel was acknowledged as one of the station's characters, who had performed various roles including that of deputy launching authority over the last 20 years.

Guests heard how Kay Magee joined Maghera RNLI over 30 years ago and remained a driving force at the inland branch throughout.

Gavin Weatherall from Newtownabbey RNLI was acknowledged for his devotion to fundraising for over 25 years with roles including that of treasurer and more recently secretary of the branch.

Patricia Ritchie, the fifth of the gold badge awardees, was described as a highly devoted secretary at Portadown where she has worked tirelessly for more than 23 years.

Two gold badge recipients collected their awards at the RNLI’s annual presentation of awards in London last month. These included Lennie Lawson, deputy launching uthority at Portaferry RNLI and Patricia Crossley, chairman of the Ballymoney fundraising branch. Merwyn Hanna MBE from Kilkeel Fundraising Branch was made an Honorory Life Governor.

Praising the awardees, Hunter-Pease said: "It all starts with the people who give their time, their donation and their expertise.

"Over the decades, as we have expanded our service and developed new craft and facilities; our volunteers, fundraisers and supporters have become more important than ever.

"Without them there is no lifeboat station, no lifeguard unit, no flood rescue team, and no coastal safety work preventing tragedies."

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) in Ireland Information

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is a charity to save lives at sea in the waters of UK and Ireland. Funded principally by legacies and donations, the RNLI operates a fleet of lifeboats, crewed by volunteers, based at a range of coastal and inland waters stations. Working closely with UK and Ireland Coastguards, RNLI crews are available to launch at short notice to assist people and vessels in difficulties.

RNLI was founded in 1824 and is based in Poole, Dorset. The organisation raised €210m in funds in 2019, spending €200m on lifesaving activities and water safety education. RNLI also provides a beach lifeguard service in the UK and has recently developed an International drowning prevention strategy, partnering with other organisations and governments to make drowning prevention a global priority.

Irish Lifeboat Stations

There are 46 lifeboat stations on the island of Ireland, with an operational base in Swords, Co Dublin. Irish RNLI crews are tasked through a paging system instigated by the Irish Coast Guard which can task a range of rescue resources depending on the nature of the emergency.

Famous Irish Lifeboat Rescues

Irish Lifeboats have participated in many rescues, perhaps the most famous of which was the rescue of the crew of the Daunt Rock lightship off Cork Harbour by the Ballycotton lifeboat in 1936. Spending almost 50 hours at sea, the lifeboat stood by the drifting lightship until the proximity to the Daunt Rock forced the coxswain to get alongside and successfully rescue the lightship's crew.

32 Irish lifeboat crew have been lost in rescue missions, including the 15 crew of the Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) lifeboat which capsized while attempting to rescue the crew of the SS Palme on Christmas Eve 1895.


While the number of callouts to lifeboat stations varies from year to year, Howth Lifeboat station has aggregated more 'shouts' in recent years than other stations, averaging just over 60 a year.

Stations with an offshore lifeboat have a full-time mechanic, while some have a full-time coxswain. However, most lifeboat crews are volunteers.

There are 46 lifeboat stations on the island of Ireland

32 Irish lifeboat crew have been lost in rescue missions, including the 15 crew of the Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) lifeboat which capsized while attempting to rescue the crew of the SS Palme on Christmas Eve 1895

In 2019, 8,941 lifeboat launches saved 342 lives across the RNLI fleet.

The Irish fleet is a mixture of inshore and all-weather (offshore) craft. The offshore lifeboats, which range from 17m to 12m in length are either moored afloat, launched down a slipway or are towed into the sea on a trailer and launched. The inshore boats are either rigid or non-rigid inflatables.

The Irish Coast Guard in the Republic of Ireland or the UK Coastguard in Northern Ireland task lifeboats when an emergency call is received, through any of the recognised systems. These include 999/112 phone calls, Mayday/PanPan calls on VHF, a signal from an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) or distress signals.

The Irish Coast Guard is the government agency responsible for the response to, and co-ordination of, maritime accidents which require search and rescue operations. To carry out their task the Coast Guard calls on their own resources – Coast Guard units manned by volunteers and contracted helicopters, as well as "declared resources" - RNLI lifeboats and crews. While lifeboats conduct the operation, the coordination is provided by the Coast Guard.

A lifeboat coxswain (pronounced cox'n) is the skipper or master of the lifeboat.

RNLI Lifeboat crews are required to follow a particular development plan that covers a pre-agreed range of skills necessary to complete particular tasks. These skills and tasks form part of the competence-based training that is delivered both locally and at the RNLI's Lifeboat College in Poole, Dorset


While the RNLI is dependent on donations and legacies for funding, they also need volunteer crew and fund-raisers.

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