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Newcastle Lifeboat Men Receive RNLI Awards for Service to Saving Lives at Sea

9th March 2015
Newcastle Lifeboat Men Receive RNLI Awards for Service to Saving Lives at Sea

#rnli – Two long-serving Newcastle RNLI volunteers have received awards from the charity for their tireless work and dedication to saving lives at sea. Deputy Launching Authority Joe McClelland and All Weather lifeboat crewmember William Wilson were presented with the awards at the station recently and the honour was well received among their colleagues at the lifeboat station. Between them the two men have given almost seventy years' service to the RNLI and neither of them have any plans to retire.

Joe McClelland has been involved with Newcastle RNLI since signing up as a teenager in 1966. He spent the next two years as shore crew before he moved onto the all weather lifeboat, where he spent the next 27 years as lifeboat man. When it came time to step down from the lifeboat crew, Joe did not leave the RNLI. Instead he stayed on at the station and put his invaluable maritime knowledge and experience to good use in the role of Deputy Launching Authority.

Joe is a mariner through and through, having been at sea for 42 years, with 30 of them serving as a Captain in the merchant navy. Reminiscing on his time with Newcastle RNLI Joe said, 'It was the done thing years ago to join the lifeboat crew when you were very young. The Newcastle lifeboat at time was the Liverpool class William and Laura and the Coxswain was Mickey Leneghan, a man we all looked up to and who was a legend around these parts. I lived in the harbour and the sea was in my blood.

Receiving the long service award is a huge honour for me and I will treasure it. So much has changed in the RNLI over the last 47 years that I've been involved with the RNLI. There is now a huge emphasis on training and rightly so. Not as many people are from maritime backgrounds but they have brought huge talent and skill to the crew and the RNLI places a huge emphasis on the training. I've seen a lot of things during my time as lifeboat crew and thankfully there has been a lot of happy endings and reunions but I also remember those who were lost at sea and their families.'

Also receiving his long service award was crewmember William Wilson, in recognition of his 20 years on the Newcastle lifeboat. William joined the lifeboat crew in 1994 when he was 26 years old. His father Will also volunteers with Newcastle RNLI and is currently station President. William has served as both inshore and all weather lifeboat crew but these days he has retired from the smaller lifeboat.

William commented, 'I always had an interest in search and rescue and I had the good fortune of joining the lifeboat crew just as the current all weather lifeboat Eleanor and Bryant Girling arrived on station, so there was huge excitement. We couldn't wait to get onboard and up to speed with all the equipment. My first major callout was to a fishing boat which had been lost in bad weather. I remember my adrenalin was pumping as we searched for the missing crewman for days. At that stage you realise that even when things are bleak, the importance of bringing closure to a family is a huge part of your job.

The RNLI is a very professional service and I love the fact that you are never finished learning. The background of the crew may have changed but the aims and values are still exactly the same and that is still saving lives at sea. I want to thank everyone involved with Newcastle RNLI for the honour and I hope we will see many more of these awards in the years to come.'

Published in RNLI Lifeboats Team

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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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