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RNLI in Northern Ireland Celebrates ‘Excellence in Volunteering’

17th August 2022
RNLI deputy chair Eddie Donaldson with Jo May from the Portrush and Portstewart fundraising team who received her 40-year award
RNLI deputy chair Eddie Donaldson with Jo May from the Portrush and Portstewart fundraising team who received her 40-year award Credit: RNLI/George Pennock

RNLI stations in Northern Ireland are celebrating several volunteers who were presented with long-service medals at Belfast Castle recently.

Held this year for the first time since the Covid pandemic, the event was attended by the deputy chairman of the RNLI, Eddie Donaldson; RNLI head of region (Ireland) Anna Classon; and trustee and council member for Great Britain and Ireland, Paddy McLaughlin.

The celebration was held to recognise the long service of volunteers from stations across Northern Ireland.

Patricia Crossley from the Ballymoney fundraising team received her 50-year award. Pat first got involved after when returning from a family outing to Belfast on 31 January 1953 and saw the lit-up revolving news on a building which said the Princess Victoria had sunk and the Donaghadee lifeboat was involved in the rescue.

Pat’s family had always holidayed in Donaghadee, and her father was a lifeboat supporter, so the following morning they went to Donaghadee and watched as the lifeboat The Sir Samuel Kelly returned with some survivors.

On that day Pat said to her father that when she was older, she’d love to do something to help lifeboats. So, from the 1960s to the present day Pat has been involved with the RNLI.

She was a flag day collector in Lisburn and Hillsborough, and since moving north 40 years ago has been involved with the Ballymoney branch, at the invitation of the then branch secretary and headmaster of Dalriada School, the late Alan Reynolds.

Pat became Flag Day organiser, a post she still holds. Pat also holds her silver and gold badge presented by the RNLI.

Jo May from Portrush and Portstewart fundraising team received her 40-year award. Jo first got involved with the Portrush branch of the RNLI after she was SCUBA diving at Ballintoy in the early 1980s and got caught in a rip tide.

Luckily, she didn’t need the lifeboat that day as she was rescued by a fisherman who happened to be on scene. But from that day has had a healthy respect for the power of the sea and has always been an enthusiastic supporter.

Jo has been a stalwart of the fundraising events, and with her sense of style and expertise in hospitality her events are always expertly run and organised.

Jo’s latest triumph and her proudest achievement was the champagne breakfast with Graeme McDowell that she organised during the Open when it first came to Portrush, raising £36,000. Jo’s particular event is the annual RNLI BBQ held at 55º North in Portrush.

Jo said recently: “I love volunteering with the RNLI, and will continue to fundraise as long as I am physically able. The team was called the Ladies’ Guild in the early days, but it has certainly evolved since then. I enjoy being part of such a vibrant team.”

Those recognised on the day also include the following:

  • Kerry Gregg, ex-coxswain and deputy launching authority at Portrush RNLI received his 20-year award.
  • Carl Kennedy, water safety officer and deputy launching authority at Portrush RNLI received his 20-year award.
  • Bernie Riley of the Ballymoney branch received a 20-year award.

Others who were awarded long service medals but couldn’t attend the ceremony were:

  • Rodney Byrne, box secretary — 40-year award (Portrush)
  • Mac Pollock - 40 years (Ballymoney)
  • Anne McCusker – 30 years (Ballymoney)
  • David Elliot - 30 years (Ballymoney)
  • Bill McCormick - 30 years (Ballymoney)
  • Dorothy and John Weeks, retired shop supervisors - 20-year award (Portrush)
  • Judy Nelson, volunteer lifeboat press officer - 20-year award (Portrush)
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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