RNLI Community Safety Campaigner Andrea Corrie

Andrea's son James Clark drowned in 2005 on the River Thames. Working with the RNLI on our Respect the Water campaign, Andrea has helped to prevent other families going through similar tragedies. She wrote about her experiences in her book, Into the Mourning Light, and she received an RNLI Individual Supporter Award in 2015.
I know James would be proud of what we’ve achieved in the light of his loss.

Tell us about your campaigning work

I had a desperate need to go there the day after James was found to see the place where he’d spent his last few moments. I was so horrified at what I saw that I vowed then and there that I would do something to change that to make it safer, so that no one else had to go through what we went through.

I approached Kingston Council some weeks later after James’ funeral and we worked with them for 3 years to put a lot of changes in there. They’ve installed throw lines which have actually been used, so we already know that lives have been saved since those changes were put in place.

When the RNLI contacted me I was so impressed that the RNLI’s main remit today is prevention rather than just rescue. It’s too late for James but not too late to make a lot of other people think carefully about what they are doing.

I know that James would be very proud of what we’ve achieved in the light of his loss and I’m reminded of the starfish story. It’s about a man who was walking along the beach early one morning and in the distance he can see a young man who he thinks is dancing to greet the day.

As he gets closer he realises that the young man is picking up starfish and throwing them back into the water. He said to him: ‘Why are you doing that?’ The young man said: ‘I’m doing this because the starfish will dry out when the tide goes out and will die.’

The older mad said: ‘But there are thousands of starfish along this stretch of beach. You can’t possibly make a difference to all of them.’ And the young man bent down and picked up one more starfish and threw it in and turned to the old man and said: ‘Well I made a difference to that one.’

I think making a difference isn’t necessarily about massive worldwide things – it’s about making a difference as an individual. And everything I do in my grief work is in honour of James’ memory.