Majella O’Donnell has been appointed station president. Majella met with the lifeboat crew last Tuesday 20 February at the station, where she was warmly welcomed with tea and biscuits.
Majella’s interest in seafaring began when her family, from Thurles in Co Tipperary, went to Spiddal, Co Galway on their annual holidays. Her father and mother Tom and Marion Roche, both keen sailors, often brought the family on board their boat and sailed the entire west coast of Ireland.
Majella has a house on Owey Island, often piloting her own boat when visiting the island, and says she has always been aware of the role of the lifeboats in saving lives at sea. She is also married to famous singer and Donegal native Daniel O’Donnell.
On meeting the crew and Arranmore RNLI press officer Nora Flanagan, Majella said how pleased she is to be part of this vital service.
“I’ve always had a huge passion for water safety and have been a great admirer of the work of the RNLI,” she said. “I want to lend my support to the work the Arranmore Lifeboat crew do, not just as a figurehead of the station but to be actively involved and in the forefront of all aspects of the station to help the crew continue their role of saving lives at sea.
“I may not be a crew member of the lifeboat going out to sea but I think I can see my role as an asset, not only in fundraising, but listening to the needs of the crew, highlighting the importance of this vital service to all those who use the sea for business or pleasure and spreading the message of safety on the sea.”
The station has also signed up three new crew members: a Polish native, a round-the-world sailor and a young Leaving Cert student.
Before he arrived in Arranmore last August, Krakow man Sebastian Sebo had no awareness of the work of the lifeboats, even though he had been in Ireland since 2006 working as a promoter at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin.
Sebastian happened upon Arranmore when cycling the Wild Atlantic Way. Seven months later, having fallen in love with the island, its people and the pace of life, and discovering the role of the lifeboat, he not only decided to stay but applied to join the crew.
Sebastian is currently undergoing his apprenticeship with the Arranmore Lifeboat and said: “Even though I had no previous experience of boats, I’m really enjoying being part of the crew and learning the ropes, all the crew are very supportive and take time and patience teaching me the various skills involved. I love living on Arranmore and especially being part of the RNLI.”
Experienced sailor and mother of four boys Sharon O’Donnell felt privileged to be asked to join the lifeboat crew seven months ago.
Sharon’s experience with boats started at a young age when she fished with her father on his trawler and continued when she joined the crew of the yacht Derry~Londonderry~Doire in the 2015-16 Clipper Race.
Sharon joined the crew of the yacht in China, sailed the Pacific to America and back to Derry via the Netherlands and London, a journey which lasted four months.
Lifeboat coxswain Jimmy Early said: “I was aware of Sharon’s involvement in the Clipper Race and greatly admired her abilities as a very competent sailor, and knew she would be an asset to the Lifeboat. Having said that, you don’t have to have any experience to serve on the lifeboat as full training is given.”
Sharon said her training on the yacht was slightly different to her experience with Arranmore RNLI.
“All of the crew had to undergo training to sail on the yacht, but the lifeboat serves a different purpose and this is reflected in the training,” she said. “All crew members of the lifeboat serve an apprenticeship and have to undergo competence based training, we are trained in various skills to help each crew member save lives and have to prove our competence in each skill prior to continuing with the next one.
“I’m really enjoying working with the lifeboat and learning new, challenging skills.”
At 18 years of age, Erin McCafferty is the youngest crew of the Arranmore lifeboat, and is currently studying for her Leaving Cert at Gairmscoil Mhic Diarmada on the island,
Erin became a crew member six months ago and is halfway through her apprenticeship. She also follows the Arranmore tradition of families serving on the lifeboat: Erin’s father John has been a crew member for 10 years, and her great-grandfather was a volunteer in the 1920s.
Erin hopes to study marine science at NUI Galway and said that her time spent on the lifeboat has convinced her that this is the direction she wants to take. She is particularly concerned about the amount of plastic pollution in all the oceans that is having an adverse affect on marine life.
Erin’s father John said: “I would encourage all young people to join the lifeboat crew if there is a station in their area, not only do they become part of an important service but it encourages them to be independent, problem solve and it is an experience they will be proud of no matter which direction their lives take.”