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A brother and sister who volunteer to save lives at sea with Valentia RNLI have called on the public to support the charity’s Christmas Appeal.

Dominic and Cornelia Lyne will be on call, along with their colleagues at the Kerry lifeboat station and RNLI volunteers at 45 other lifeboat stations across Ireland, ready to launch at a moment’s notice to save lives.

Cornelia and Dominic grew up in a house where the RNLI lifeboat pager going off was a familiar sound. The siblings are the children of former volunteer lifeboat crew member Nealie Lyne, who after 25 years saving lives at sea is now a deputy launching authority at the station.

Dominic says: “Because we are family, once you put on the gear, we are all in it together and we have to ensure we all come home to those waiting for us.”

Cornelia is very proud of being a female crew member in the RNLI and hopes to inspire other women to join, too.

“I’m nearly 10 years a crew member and I still love it when we have landed home safe after a callout during the summer when there are a lot of tourists around and the kids see me walking up to the boathouse in my full gear and they realise girls can join the crew too.

“When the pagers go, no lifeboat volunteer hesitates to answer the call, and these rescues would not be possible without the donations from the RNLI’s generous supporters, helping to fund the essential kit [and] training equipment needed by lifeboat crews all year round. Thank you to everyone who supports the appeal this Christmas.”

James Kitt joined Baltimore RNLI after relocating to the West Cork town with his Irish girlfriend Emma | Credit: RNLIJames Kitt joined Baltimore RNLI after relocating to the West Cork town with his Irish girlfriend Emma | Credit: RNLI

Meanwhile, in neighbouring West Cork, one of Baltimore RNLI’s newest recruits is James Kitt, who joined the lifeboat station after relocating with his Irish girlfriend Emma.

Baltimore RNLI is one of eight lifeboat stations based in Cork, along with Castletownbere, Courtmacsherry, Union Hall, Kinsale, Crosshaven, Ballycotton and Youghal.

James was previously volunteer lifeboat crew at Chiswick on the Thames in London, one of the busiest of the charity’s lifeboat stations.

Born in Poole in Dorset, he met Emma in the States at a sailing event and the couple decided to relocate to Ireland before the pandemic, moving to Dublin.

When the first lockdown came, the couple relocated to Baltimore with James working remotely for an Irish aid organisation. Having swapped the busy London life for West Cork, he says he couldn’t be happier finding a station where he can use his lifeboat training.

“I’m one of a number of new joiners to the lifeboat crew in Baltimore and the level of maritime experience and expertise here is incredible,” he says. “Although it’s not surprising when you see the love of the sailing here. I’m learing so much from my colleagues and getting into the West Cork way of life. Emma and I love it here and feel very much at home.

“Baltimore lifeboat is so embedded in the community, something that’s a little harder to achieve at a busy London station. When there is a callout here everyone is aware of it and the whole place gets behind the crew, it’s fantastic.

“When the pager goes, no lifeboat volunteer hesitates to answer the call, and I know first hand that these rescues would not be possible without the donations from the RNLI's generous supporters.”

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

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

A busy mother of one is among five new volunteer crew members who will be on call for the first time this Christmas at Lough Derg RNLI.

Polish native Ania Skrzypczynska is preparing to swap traditional festivities for the cold waters of the December lake, should the call for help come in.

And as the RNLI continues its Christmas Appeal, Ania is urging the public to help her crew, and the thousands of other volunteer crews on call over the Christmas period, to continue their lifesaving work.

Ania says she joined the RNLI “because I wanted to become part of the community after moving to Dromineer. After the first few training sessions on the lifeboat, I had got to meet really nice, friendly people and found it to be a great experience.

“Then after passing my first assessment and being allowed to go on the lifeboat, it was like the beginning of an adventure for me.

“Being a mum of a small and very busy boy, I am restricted with the amount of time I have to spare between my full-time job and family life. However, I know that in the future I will be able to get more involved in the life of the station.

“I am looking forward to becoming a fully qualified crew member. I like new challenges and I want to channel it towards learning how to help others. And by living so close to Lough Derg, I want to learn more about the lake, its beauty and, its dangers.”

Among the other new crew members at Lough Derg RNLI are Richard Nolan, Ciara Lynch, Eimear Kelly and Ciara Moylan.

For Richard, his knowledge from youth of the work the RNLI did on the lake was a major influence in his decision to join the crew, but he also found that having lived away from home in London for almost 10 years, it was a good opportunity to reintegrate into his community.

Richard says: ‘This is my first Christmas on call, and I know even over the festive period, our lifesavers are ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and rush to the aid of someone in trouble on the water.”

From left: Paul Sillery, Graham Fitzgerald and John Stapleton have taken up new roles at Wicklow RNLIFrom left: Paul Sillery, Graham Fitzgerald and John Stapleton have taken up new roles at Wicklow RNLI

Elsewhere, Wicklow RNLI have passed out three volunteer lifeboat crew into new lifesaving roles at the station.

Graham Fitzgerald is a new station coxswain, Paul Sillery is a new helm on the station’s inshore lifeboat and John Stapleton is a new mechanic on the all-weather Shannon class lifeboat.

Graham has been a volunteer lifeboat crewmember since 2009, becoming a helm on the inshore lifeboat back in 2013. He has a strong family connection to the station, with his grandfather Billy Kilbride a former lifeboat volunteer.

From a strong seafaring background and working in Dublin Port, the sea is in his veins, and he was involved in the rescue of two children who were blown out to sea on an inflatable earlier this year.

“I like the challenge of going out on a rescue and not knowing what we may face; I’ve been on a few challenging ones and it’s so rewarding to bring people home safe, something that sadly not every family have experienced,” he says.

“As a helm and now a coxswain, I feel a huge responsibility to the crew and the station, thanks to the support of the public we have the kit and the equipment to ensure we can save lives at sea whenever and wherever we are needed.”

Paul Sillery joined the lifeboat crew back in 2009 and has recently passed out as a helm on the station’s D class lifeboat. Like Graham, Paul has a strong lifeboating tradition in his family: his great uncle Parker Keogh was coxswain and his uncle David Sillery was a crew member.

“I knew I was always going to join the lifeboat crew and the minute I turned 17 I was at the door of the station,” Paul says. “People recognise the crew in the street as they see us going out to train and see us leaving for a shout. It’s so humbling to have that kind of community support behind us.

John Stapleton has been recently passed out as a mechanic on the all-weather lifeboat. Born and raised in Dublin, John moved to Wicklow 11 years ago and joined the lifeboat crew in 2015.

“There is a role for everyone in the RNLI and if you have an interest in something you can develop it and train up,” John says. “We have navigators, launching authorities and shore crew — everyone does the role that suits them, and it all works together. The resources the RNLI puts into the training and the kit is incredible.:

John adds: “Through people supporting this year’s Christmas appeal, with their help we can get so much closer to our goal of saving every one.”

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

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

The grandson of a distinguished Donegal coxswain, who was awarded the RNLI’s Gold Medal for Gallantry for his role in the rescue of 18 crew on a Dutch steamer in 1940, has returned home from Boston to become the third generation in his family to join Arranmore island’s lifesaving crew.

Mark Boyle was born and raised on Arranmore, but this will be his first Christmas on call for the RNLI after he was quickly recruited upon his family’s return to the island from America last April.

Mark follows in the footsteps of his late father Charlie, a former station mechanic spanning three decades, and his grandfather Jack, who was recognised for his bravery for a rescue during the Second World War.

Almost 81 years ago to the day, Jack and his crew rescued 18 people on the Dutch steamer Stolwijk of Rotterdam on 7 December 1940.

The Stolwijk was one of a convoy of ships from America which had come through three days of a rising northwesterly gale and was making for the passage between Scotland and Ulster, in mountainous seas and a hurricane of wind and snow, when it was forced onto rocks at Inishbeg.

Its crew’s rescue by Arranmore RNLI’s lifeboat crew was later recognised as one of great daring gallantry and endurance, carried out in weather of exceptional severity.

While Mark is delighted to be carrying on the family’s lifesaving tradition, he says his reasons for joining the lifeboat crew run deeper than just that.

And now as the RNLI continues its Christmas Appeal, Mark is urging people across Donegal — home to three lifeboat stations at Lough Swilly, Arranmore and Bundoran — to help his fellow crew, and the thousands of other volunteer crews carrying a pager over the festivities, to continue their lifesaving work at sea.

‘I know there will be thousands of volunteers like me wearing pagers and ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and rush to the aid of someone in trouble on the water’

“I was born and raised on the island and spent my early years fishing lobsters, salmon and working on local white fishing boats,’ Mark said. “I then went to college and worked in Galway for 20 years before I moved to Boston for seven years.

“I returned home to the island with my wife and two of my three children in April and while it was always my intention to join the lifeboat crew when I came home, Tony Ward, the lifesaving operations manager, beat me to it and asked me to join before I got the chance to make the ask myself, which was lovely.”

Mark, who works in engineering as a head of operations for Irish Pressings, travels from the island to Bunbeg daily but when he is not working away, he is carrying his pager.

“The family connections are important but for me becoming a crew member runs deeper than that. It is about the sense of community and that is what the RNLI is all about,” he said.

“I spent the first three months on my return fishing which for many here is how they make their livelihoods, on the water.

“The lifeboat provides the vital service to those in distress at sea and that is always acutely felt by those living on the island. It is an added benefit for me that as a new crew member I am continuing in the family tradition.”

This Christmas Mark will be prepared to leave his loved ones behind to answer the call, each time hoping to reunite another family, and see those in trouble at sea safely returned. Over the past decade, RNLI lifeboats have launched over 1,200 times during the festive period.

But these rescues 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.

“This is my first Christmas as a crew member with the RNLI,” Mark added. “I know there will be thousands of volunteers like me wearing pagers and ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and rush to the aid of someone in trouble on the water. At this time of year, the weather is at its worst and lives are on the line.

“We know that every time our crews go out to sea, they hope for a good outcome, but sadly this sometimes isn’t the case. We hope that this year’s Christmas Appeal will show people just how tough it can be, but also that with their help we can get so much closer to our goal of saving every one.”

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

And listen to Tom MacSweeney’s latest podcast which discusses the RNLI’s investment in the Arranmore lifeboat.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

The Coast Guard and RNLI are appealing to the public to exercise caution when participating in any activity on or near the water during the Christmas and New Year period, and to be mindful of the restrictions in place to deal with the COVID pandemic. With many traditional Christmas and New Year swims cancelled, anybody planning this activity should check on the up-to-date guidance and ensure that they have made the appropriate safety arrangements.

Both organisations have thanked the public for their cooperation during the past year and in particular to the positive response in adhering with severe weather warnings. 2021 proved to be a busy year with an almost 20% increase in callouts, placing extra demand on Search and Rescue providers, including Coast Guard and RNLI volunteer crews.

With the increased levels of open water swimming, both organisations are highlighting the risks of cold water shock, which is a danger for anyone entering water 15°C or below. Average sea temperature around Ireland at this time of year are between 6 and 10°C, which can pose a risk of hypothermia, even for the most experienced of open water swimmers.

Safety tips from the Coast Guard & the RNLI for open water swimming are:

  • Always check the weather forecast and understand the local effects of wind, tides, and currents. (For weather and tides see safetyonthewater.gov.ie)
  • Never swim alone and if possible, have somebody ashore who is familiar with your plans and can observe your progress.
  • Only swim in sheltered areas with which you are familiar and swim parallel to the shore.
  • Stay within your depth – know your limits including how long to stay in the water
  • Ensure that you are visible from the shore. Wear a brightly coloured swim cap or use a tow float to increase your visibility in the water.
  • Wearing a wetsuit is advisable to help stay warm.
  • Acclimatise to cold water slowly to reduce the risk of cold-water shock.
  • Get warmed up afterwards. Wrap up well in extra layers of clothing
  • If in doubt, don’t go out.
  • Tell someone else where you’re going and when you’ll be back.

Irish Coast Guard Operations Manager Micheál O’Toole said: ‘We wish to say a special thank everybody involved in SAR (Search and Rescue) for their commitment and service in these extraordinary times with a special thank you to the volunteer members of the rescue services. People love to get out and about over the Christmas and New Year period. For those who have an opportunity to go on coastal walks always remember to Stay Back Stay High Stay Dry – and this year please be especially mindful of Covid related restrictions.’

He added, ‘It is important to distinguish between the traditional Christmas quick dip and longer swims. Open water swimming at this time of the year is only for experienced participants and never ever swim alone.”

RNLI Regional Lifesaving Lead Owen Medland added: ‘Our wish for everyone planning a trip to the coast or a festive swim is that they do so safely. We urge everyone to be extra cautious and understand the risks and know how to stay safe before they enter the cold water. Follow the right advice for your activity and always carry a means of calling for help.’

He concluded, ’As we come to the end of the year, we would like to thank all those involved in search and rescue around the coast of Ireland and on inland waters. These dedicated men and women, many of whom are volunteers, will remain on call over the Christmas period and New Year.’

Published in Coastguard
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A busy mother of two young children is among five new volunteers who will be carrying pagers and on call for the first time this Christmas at Sligo Bay RNLI.

As the charity continues its Christmas Appeal, Rachel Wirtz is preparing to swap turkey and pudding and run to the lifeboat station should her pager go off.

She is urging people across Sligo to help her crew, and the thousands of other volunteer crews on call over the Christmas period, to continue their lifesaving work.

Rachel joined the crew over a year ago but due to the pandemic and restrictions, she couldn’t work on completing her assessments face-to-face until this year. While she has been involved in callouts as shore crew, she hasn’t yet made a lifeboat callout to sea.

“The standard and extent of the training has been excellent, and I am learning terrific new skills,” says the mum-of-three who lives in Rosses Point. “There was a rush of adrenaline and excitement rather than apprehension for my first call out. I am excited about being able to contribute and I feel very lucky to be a part of it.”

Among the other new lifeboat crew members at Sligo Bay RNLI are Reece Meldrum and Aisling Murphy, while Noah Canham and Caroline Collery have joined the shore crew. Yvette Carter, meanwhile, will be spending her first Christmas as a lifeboat helm.

Like Rachel, each RNLI crew member signs up to save every one from drowning — it has been the charity’s mission since 1824.

Rachel adds: “This is my first Christmas on call, and I know even over the festive period, our lifesavers are ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and rush to the aid of someone in trouble on the water. At this time of year, the weather can be at its worst and lives can be on the line.

“We know that every time our crews go out, they hope for a good outcome, but sadly this sometimes isn’t the case. We hope that this year’s Christmas appeal will show people just how tough it can be, but also that with their help we can get so much closer to our goal of saving every one.”

The four men taking on new roles with Clogherhead RNLI this ChristmasThe four men taking on new roles with Clogherhead RNLI this Christmas

Meanwhile, on the East Coast, Clogherhead RNLI have appointed four people to new lifesaving roles as this Christmas the station stands ready to launch at a moment’s notice to save lives at sea.

Sean Flanagan, a pilot boat coxswain at Dublin Port, and Denis Levins, an officer with P&O Ferries, have been passed out as lifeboat coxswains, while Raymond Butterly has joined the station to become shore crew for launching the station’s impressive Shannon class lifeboat.

Barry Sharkey has also been appointed as the new full-time mechanic for the station, taking over from the retiring Padraig Rath.

The four men helped the charity launch its Christmas appeal at the Co Louth-based lifeboat station and are calling on the public to support the RNLI’s lifesaving work this Christmas, as they remain on call and ready to launch.

“We know that every time our crews go out, they hope for a good outcome, but sadly this sometimes isn’t the case,” says Barry, who comes from a well-known local fishing family. “Through people supporting this year’s Christmas appeal, with their help we can get so much closer to our goal of saving every one.”

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

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

At a time when business and contact hours are at the heart of the national conversation, Lough Ree RNLI is reminding everyone that the charity and its volunteer lifeboat crew remain on call 24/7 throughout Christmas and the New Year.

With 46 callouts so far this year, 2021 has been another busy year for Lough Ree RNLI. The charity came to the assistance of over 150 people who had experienced difficulty of some kind on the lake or River Shannon this year.

To remain always in readiness the volunteers have continued with weekly on-the-water training on board the station’s inshore lifeboat Tara Scougall.

Coupled with this were a number of multi-agency training and familiarisation sessions with other lifesaving partners on the water.

While the holiday period is traditionally a busy one on the lake for both boats and swimmers, Lough Ree RNLI press officer Tom McGuire said: “All who use the lake at this time need to be aware of the colder water temperatures and the higher water level which may obscure obstacles normally fully visible.

“In the event of anyone getting into difficulty a call should be made to the emergency services on 112 or 999 at the earliest opportunity. As always Lough Ree RNLI remains on call at all times; for some new crew members it will be a first Christmas on call.”

On land, the new lifeboat station is nearing completion on the shores of Lough Ree at Coosan Point in Athlone. All of the crew had an opportunity to walk through the facility last week and Lough Ree RNLI hope to move into the boathouse early in the the New Year.

A fundraising campaign has been ongoing throughout the year to raise a local community contribution of €100,000 towards the €1.2m project. This has been very successful and the target is well within reach after many great contributions, both big and small throughout the year. In the season of giving, Lough Ree RNLI hopes to reach its target very soon.

The station has a local bank account where all donations, large or small, are welcome. The account name is Loughree RNLI Boathouse Appeal, the BIC is AIBKIE2D and the IBAN is IE80AIBK93226458090098.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Santa Claus had to make his own way back from Rathlin Island yesterday afternoon (Sunday 19 December) after the volunteer lifeboat crew from Red Bay RNLI were diverted to go to the aid of a fishing trawler.

The 25-metre trawler with six crew on board was six miles northeast of Rathlin Island off the North Antrim coast in Northern Ireland when it requested assistance after its propeller became snagged in nets.

Thankfully the lifeboat crew were nearby as they had delivered Santa to Rathlin Island during their weekly training exercise.

Unfortunately, it meant that Santa had to take the ferry back to Ballycastle as the lifeboat crew immediately made their way to the trawler and carried out the rescue mission.

As the trawler had snagged its nets round its propellor, the lifeboat crew took the vessel under tow to Ballycastle in a four-hour operation.

Commenting on the callout, Red Bay RNLI coxswain Joe McCollam said: “We were sorry to leave Santa to make his own way home from Rathlin but we knew we were leaving him in very good hands with the local ferry crew.

“The snagged trawler was in some difficulty and the crew were not able to move the vessel. That area can be quite treacherous, and they needed to be brought to a safe harbour.

“Thankfully the lifeboat crew were nearby and able to bring them to Ballycastle. We also heard that Santa had a safe and enjoyable journey back from Rathlin and is looking forward to Christmas.”

Meanwhile, a Glasgow native who moved to Cushendall three-and-a-half years ago and has since joined the lifeboat crew at Red Bay RNLI is preparing to drop everything this Christmas if her pager sounds and there is an emergency at sea.

As the charity launches its Christmas Appeal, Hazel Imrie —who runs a hardware store in the town — is urging people across Co Antrim to help her fellow crew at Red Bay, Portrush and Larne and the thousands of other volunteer crews carrying pagers over the festivities to continue their lifesaving work.

Red Bay RNLI crew member Hazel Imrie with the station’s inshore lifeboat | Credit: RNLIRed Bay RNLI crew member Hazel Imrie with the station’s inshore lifeboat | Credit: RNLI

“I joined the crew at Red Bay in February 2020 just before COVID hit,” Hazel says, “so unfortunately with the pandemic and restrictions, my training was disjointed, and it wasn’t until this year that I could focus on completing my assessments.

“I have always had an interest in the work of the RNLI and I knew when I moved here with my partner, who is from Cushendall, that I wanted to get involved because I could see how integral the service is to a coastal community. I wanted to give something back to the community that I was living in.”

With no prior maritime, sailing or boating experience, Hazel fully immersed herself into the rigorous training involved in becoming a crew member.

“I have valued the support of an experienced team and I have learned so much from others. Everyone has been so welcoming, and the training has been hands on, practical and a really enjoyable experience.”

Now as Hazel prepares for her pager to sound, she says there is a mixture of emotions involved ahead of her first callout: “I am excited but there is also anticipation and concern because you are going into the unknown, but I am also reassured because I know when that call does come, everyone else who turns up is experienced and will support me.”

Like Hazel, thousands of volunteer crew members around Ireland and the UK sign up to save every one from drowning — it has been the charity’s mission since 1824.

This Christmas many will leave their loved ones behind to answer the call, each time hoping to reunite another family, and see those in trouble on the water safely returned.

Over the past decade, RNLI lifeboats have launched over 1,200 times during the festive period. But these rescues 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.

Hazel says: “This is my first Christmas on call and I know even over the festive period, our lifesavers are ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and rush to the aid of someone in trouble on the water. At this time of year, the weather can be at its worst and lives can be on the line.

“We know that every time our crews go out they hope for a good outcome, but sadly this sometimes isn’t the case. We hope that this year’s Christmas appeal will show people just how tough it can be, but also that with their help we can get so much closer to our goal of saving every one.”

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

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

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

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Many of my memories from fifty years of journalism in all sectors of the media, from local weekly newspapers, to national dailies, radio and television, involve lifeboat stations.

In tragedy and celebration that has been the focus of coastal communities, places always welcoming. informative and a major part of the maritime sphere.

In years past many were old buildings, but some of which reeked of dampness and cold in winter weather. Meeting crews that had returned from emergency rescue call-outs, I marvelled at how they wound down after the stress and pressure of being at sea in tough conditions. That did not, to me, seem easy in the conditions of station buildings that needed upgrading.

The improvement of RNLI stations, often through the commitment and funding of local communities, has been impressive and needed - and a great pleasure to be asked to do the formal opening of one, in the fishing port of Castletownbere in West Cork.

Arranmore Island RNLI Lifeboat StationArranmore Island RNLI Lifeboat Station

My memories of lifeboat stations include, in years past, being aboard Baltimore Lifeboat as it launched, down the slipway inside the old station, a metal building support with a sign that said “mind your head” flashing past as the boat hit the water at speed. Doing the naming ceremony for Kilrush Station’s new rigid inflatable in the Shannon Estuary is recalled in a photograph on the wall of my ‘Den’ at home where I write this. Another photograph recalls a visit to Achill station – and there are many more, so I follow closely what happens at lifeboat stations, where one of the oldest remaining in the country is to be replaced. That is on Arranmore Island off Donegal.

The RNLI has operated a station there since 1883 when the first lifeboat Vandeleur was powered by sail and oars. One of the island’s previous boathouses was in Aphort, where the bodies of those recovered from the Arranmore Disaster in 1935 were laid out. A yawl carrying twenty passengers that left Burtonport Harbour for Arranmore ran onto a rock and nineteen drowned. The only survivor was the late Paddy Gallagher, who himself lost his father, four brothers and two sisters in the tragedy.

The current Arranmore boathouse is at Poolawaddy, used since 1994, partially funded with a donation from the relatives of students who lost their lives off Arranmore in 1989. Four Edinburgh University students were drowned when their dinghy sprang a leak and sank while crossing from Arranmore to the Isle of Iochtar. Two survived.

One of the station’s most famous rescues was in December 1940 when Arranmore lifeboat rescued 16 sailors from the Dutch merchant ship, Stolwjick, that got into difficulty in bad weather. The lifeboat crew were awarded gold, silver and bronze medals by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands for their rescue.

Niamh Stephenson, RNLI Media Manager Ireland, describes the new facilities to be provided at Arranmore in this Podcast.

Mark Boyle who was born on Arranmore returned to the island from America last April. This will be his first Christmas on call for the RNLI. He follows in the footsteps of his late father Charlie, a former Station Mechanic and his grandfather Jack, who was awarded the RNLI’s gold medal for gallantry for his role in the rescue of the 18 Dutch crew in 1940.

Mark Boyle holding his grandfather's RNLI gold medal for gallantryMark Boyle holding his grandfather's RNLI gold medal for gallantry

Donegal County Council has approved the demolition of the old lifeboat station to make way for the new two-storey development on the same site at Poolawaddy.

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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Nine months into her role as lifeboat operations manager at Kilrush RNLI, Shawna Johnson is preparing for her first Christmas on call since taking up the management of the Co Clare lifeboat station.

As the charity launches its Christmas appeal, Shawna — who has been volunteering with Kilrush RNLI since 2013 — is preparing her crew to swap their turkey and pudding for the cold waters of the sea should the call for help come in.

She is urging the public to help her crew and the thousands of other volunteer crews carrying pagers over the Christmas period to continue their lifesaving work.

As LOM, Shawna is responsible for all operational activities at the lifeboat station including authorising the launch of the inshore lifeboat and the day-to-day management of the station.

“I was appointed to the role in April and had to hit the ground running with three callouts in my first week,” Shawna says. “Thankfully, all were successful with the crew towing two boats and their crews to safety and coming to the aid of a kayaker who had got into difficulty.

“That first week was nerve-wracking because while I had been a crew member on the lifeboat and then a deputy launching authority, this was the first time I was the station manager with responsibility for everyone and everything. However, once I got the first call out out of the way, I knew I could do this.”

Like Shawna, each RNLI crew member signs up to save every one from drowning — it has been the charity’s mission since 1824.

This Christmas many will leave their loved ones behind to answer the call, each time hoping to reunite another family, and see those in trouble on the water safely returned.

Over the past decade, RNLI lifeboats have launched over 1,200 times during the festive period. But these rescues 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.

Shawna says: “This is my first Christmas on call as lifeboat operations manager, and I know even over the festive period, our lifesavers are ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and rush to the aid of someone in trouble on the water. At this time of year, the weather can be at its worst and lives can be on the line.

“We know that every time our crews go out, they hope for a good outcome, but sadly this sometimes isn’t the case. We hope that this year’s Christmas appeal will show people just how tough it can be, but also that with their help we can get so much closer to our goal of saving every one.”

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

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
Page 3 of 250
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