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Inishturk Islander Will Celebrate 89th Christmas at Home After Achill Island RNLI Medevac

18th December 2021
John O’Toole with his wife Mary at home on Inishturk
John O’Toole with his wife Mary at home on Inishturk Credit: RNLI

Inishturk islander John O’Toole will enjoy his 89th Christmas at home with his wife Mary, his children and grandchildren in the coming weeks.

He and his family won’t take this for granted. however, since John spent several weeks in hospital during the summer after his medevac by Achill Island RNLI when he became seriously unwell in June this year.

As thanks to the lifeboat crew that came to his aid, John and his family are supporting the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal.

John spent almost two months being treated for his illness in Mayo University Hospital before recuperating in a nursing home and finally becoming well enough to return home courtesy of Achill Island RNLI to Inisturk in August.

Speaking about her father’s dramatic recovery, John’s daughter Annie Maher said: “On that day in June when Dad took ill, the Achill Island lifeboat was called to transfer Dad from home to the mainland to get medical attention at Mayo University Hospital.

“Without the quick response of the lifeboat on that day, it may have been a very different outcome.”

Supporting the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal comes easy to the O’Toole family, who have been long-standing supporters of the charity that saves lives at sea.

Having John at home brings back fond memories of Christmases in the past, and that unique relationship that exits between the islanders and the RNLI.

File image of Achill Island RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat | Credit: RNLIFile image of Achill Island RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat | Credit: RNLI

Annie recounts stories of how the young children on Inisturk would donate all the money they gathered on their traditional Wren Boys Day collection to the RNLI, which they affectionally refer to as ‘the lifeboat’.

She said that the islanders were always assured that even in really bad weather conditions, ‘the lifeboat’ would always come to their aid. “What a wonderful service it is to all still living on the islands around Ireland.”

She also spoke about the RNLI collection box which was always on the counter in the local pub, and the islanders happily popped their change into it.

“Dad has made a remarkable recovery following his return home,” Annie said. “He enjoys daily short walks with mum and the dogs while keeping an eye on the sheep. He is looking forward to spending time with family and friends and maybe have a little glass or two of rum.”

She concluded: “Dad, Mum and all of us understand the commitment and dedication of the Achill lifeboat crew and all involved with the lifeboat. We wish them all a very Merry Christmas and safe New year. May God watch over them all while at sea.”

These callouts would not be possible without donations from the RNLI’s generous supporters, helping to fund the essential kit, training and equipment needed by lifeboat crews all year round.

Despite the disruption caused by the pandemic, lifeboat crews have remained on call, available to launch at any hour, day, or night, to help those in trouble at sea.

Through people supporting this year’s Christmas appeal, the RNLI can continue to operate the lifesaving service and work towards the charity’s goal, to save every one.

To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal, visit RNLI.org/Xmas

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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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