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RNLI Award for Gallantry Returned to Aran Islands

20th April 2017
Pictured at the presentation are from left are Daniel O'Connell, Aran Islands RNLI crew member, family member Sean Flaherty, John and Mary Harwood with the vellum, Tony Hiney, RNLI Community Fundraising Manager, John O'Donnell Aran Islands RNLI Coxswain, John Mulkerrin Aran Islands RNLI mechanic and Michael Hernon, Aran Islands RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager Pictured at the presentation are from left are Daniel O'Connell, Aran Islands RNLI crew member, family member Sean Flaherty, John and Mary Harwood with the vellum, Tony Hiney, RNLI Community Fundraising Manager, John O'Donnell Aran Islands RNLI Coxswain, John Mulkerrin Aran Islands RNLI mechanic and Michael Hernon, Aran Islands RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager

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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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.

FAQs

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.

© Afloat 2020

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