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Larne RNLI Families Among the Generations of Lifesavers On Call This Christmas

15th December 2023
Father and son Frank and Jack Healy
Father and son Frank and Jack Healy have a combined 34 years as RNLI lifeboat volunteers Credit: RNLI/Nathan Williams

Larne RNLI father-and-son duo Frank and Jack Healy plus father and daughter Martin and Sami Agnew have been reflecting on what it’s like to be on call together as both family and fellow crew members.

On average, RNLI lifeboats launch over 100 times during the Christmas period every year. Whatever weather winter throws at them, RNLI crews are ready to battle the elements to save lives at sea.

These rescues, and others all year round, are only made possible by the RNLI’s generous supporters, helping to fund the essential kit, training and equipment needed by lifeboat crews.

Frank Healy has been a lifeboat crew member at Larne RNLI for 29 years, 27 of those as coxswain. Before that he was a crew member at Red Bay RNLI, further north along Northern Ireland’s East Antrim coast, for three years. His son Jack joined the Larne crew in August 2018.

For five years now, Frank and Jack have been regularly training together and have been on a number of the same call-outs.

So, what’s it like to be on the crew with a family member? “I do enjoy Jack being on the lifeboat,” Frank says. “I enjoy seeing him go through the various stages and achieving the different goals — it’s hard to put into words how proud I feel when I see him doing that.”

But like many families who have a loved one on the lifeboat, there is concern too when they put the lifeboat to sea.

“Recently, on one of the shouts,” Frank recalls with a smile, “I had to put Jack aboard another vessel at two o’clock in the morning in a Force 8 gale and everyone thought it was a great achievement and a great job. Except his mother — and she gave me such a hard time for putting his life on the line.”

Father and daughter Martin and Sami Agnew aboard Larne RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat | Credit: RNLI/LarneFather and daughter Martin and Sami Agnew aboard Larne RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat | Credit: RNLI/Larne

For Frank though, it was no surprise when Jack decided to join the crew: “I was absolutely delighted that he was going to be a part of it, but I had no doubt that that was going to happen because Jack had shown such an interest from an early age. When I was going out on shouts he would wait up until I came in and the first thing I would hear was this voice from our little boy’s bedroom: ‘Dad, what was it?’

“His achievements within the lifeboat also — it’s probably one of the drivers that is keeping me on the lifeboat. I enjoy going out training with Jack and I particularly enjoy when we go on call outs together. It’s really rewarding when you go out on a shout and you come in and everything has gone well but to have your big son beside you when you do it, it’s pretty special.”

Meanwhile, Sami Agnew joined the lifeboat crew in Larne in October 2009 following in the footsteps of her father Martin, who marks 25 years of volunteer service next year.

“Being on the crew with my dad is very special’ following in his footsteps makes me very proud and always having him there when I need him is like an extra safety net,” Sami says.

For both families, Christmas will be no different than any other day on call this year and should their pagers sound, they will be ready to respond.

“There’s no feeling quite like bringing someone home safe to their families,” Sami adds. “But as volunteer lifeboat crew we couldn’t launch without kind donations from the public which fund the kit, training and equipment we need to save others and get home safely to our own families.”

As previously reported on, the RNLI is launching its annual Christmas fundraising appeal for 2023 with a focus on the generations of families who have volunteered their time and commitment to ensure the charity’s lifesaving service has continued for nearly 200 years.

To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal, and enable the charity to continue its lifesaving work, visit

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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