Michael Mordaunt, Arklow

Meet Michael - a very modest man with a self-deprecating sense of humour. He is one of the RNLI’s unsung heroes, although of course he’d never admit to it.
Michael Mordaunt, Arklow

Photo: RNLI / Nigel Millard

Age: 46

Station: Arklow

Role: Branch Fundraising Chairman

Day job: Self-employed - Michael is a Site Plumber for a family-run construction company

From the offset, Michael said to me:

‘I’d rather be talking about Arklow RNLI and the fundraising committee than about myself. They do all the work – I’m just the figurehead at the end of the day.’

I’m sure you do some as well

Ahh, very little!

So how long have you volunteered for the RNLI?

With Arklow’s Fundraising Committee, roughly 12 years. And then about 2 years before that because my mother became ill and she asked me to help her out.

And what brought you to the RNLI?

My mother asked me. About 14 years ago she was helping to organise a pitch and putt golf tournament in aid of Arklow RNLI. But she had to go in to hospital for an operation so I took over.

She’d organised the event the year before and wanted to improve on it so she asked if I’d give her a hand.

She’s up for an RNLI award this year for all her fundraising efforts over the years.

What’s her name?

Margaret Mordaunt.

After that I helped her with a few more bits and pieces before joining the committee.

I joined as a fundraising volunteer and then I took over as chairman from Tommy Annesley about 3 or 4 years ago.

What does your role as chairman involve?

I organise the committee and I take forward our crazy fundraising ideas!

I have a great bunch of people behind me and I love working with them. We’re a great team and we get the money in.

I love helping them rather than them helping me. When they come up with an idea, some people would mock it straight away. But our team would never knock an idea because it takes a lot of guts for some people to stand up and say it.

For me, it’s all about the committee. When I first became chairman, I watched how the committee worked and noticed there were a lot of people walking and we weren’t getting as much done. Volunteers don’t always have the time, but they have the heart.

So I recruited a few retired people in and they do a lot of the day-to-day running. To me they’re the backbone.

How many volunteers are there on the committee?

There’s about 14. But we also set up sub-committees. For example when we have our Hurry to the Curry event, my wife does the cooking and she brings in a team to help her.

And then for Mayday, we have another team come in. For the Arklow Maritime Festival in August we have another team. They’re like foot soldiers. We’re very lucky. There are different fundraising committees around and we all help each other out.

How much money did the branch raise last year?

With the shop and the fundraising committee, it was close to €50,000. Probably around €45,000 of this was from our fundraising activity. But we were down on donations by about €7,000. Still, every penny helps.

What’s the best thing about your role?

I’ve made some great friends over the years.

And the lifeboat has never been stood down. We’ve never had to tell someone’s story – they’ve told it themselves. If people don’t live to tell their story, then it’s bad news. At the end of the day, it’s all about that boat.

And the worst?

Having to tell the story.

And talking about me! It’s not about me. It’s about the RNLI and the fundraising committee. If someone does a fundraiser, I send somebody else to collect the cheque because I like to make sure everybody is seen, not just me. It’s a team effort.

Why is the RNLI so important to you?

What got me involved is my mother. I asked her once why she wanted to fundraise for the RNLI because at the time, I thought it was a paid emergency service. But she soon put me right!

She told me how the service is totally voluntary and relies on donations. How the lifeboat crews are made up of volunteers with no steady income. I didn’t know that. And at the time, there were lots of people like me who thought the same.

We see the lifeboat crew go out in some awful conditions and when they return, it’s such a relief. They’re a great bunch of guys. They take it all in their stride and are so modest about what they do. If someone’s embarrassed about being rescued, the crew respect that. But at the end of the day, that person gets to go home and it’s a happy story for them to tell their family.

When the crew are paged, the adrenaline that gets pumping is unbelievable. Within 3 minutes, the boys are down and the boat’s pulling out. That’s phenomenal. I can’t believe how they do it.

And when we’re having our committee meetings, no one sees them down there at the station doing their navigation or radar training or training out on the water. No one sees that.

The RNLI is my passion now. It’s the third person in my marriage!

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve done or been involved in to raise money for the RNLI?

About 3 years ago I drove around Ireland to every lifeboat station in a Round Ireland 4x4 Challenge. There were six of us in two jeeps. We started off on Friday and we finished Sunday evening. We were on nearly every radio station! We were six strangers but by the end of it we were six best friends. You could write a book about it. It was absolutely fantastic to do.

Also in Ireland we have a Rose of Tralee Festival where every Summer young ladies from all over the country compete to be Rose. One year there was a Male Rose of Arklow competition as part of the Arklow Seabreeze Festival - I came second!

I’ve done Strictly Come Dancing. In March I did Jigs and Reels, the Irish dancing version of Strictly.

And last year we made two big yellow wellies for Mayday and pushed them 16 miles from Courtown to Arklow.

Wow, you’ve done some amazing things!

Yeah, but the best one was driving around Ireland. The people at the lifeboat stations were absolutely fantastic. We raised about €5,000 in the end.

We have some absolutely lunatic ideas but the committee are just brilliant and they go with them!

What’s your most memorable or proudest moment during your time with the RNLI?

Getting people together to help. No one ever questions it. You can ask anyone for some money or a helping hand.

Arklow Branch won a regional RNLI Supporter Award last year, which was fantastic. But it’s really about meeting the people and their generosity.

We say that the crew are the unsung heroes. And the crew say that we’re the unsung heroes. But it’s the people who give us the money at the end of the day who are really the unsung heroes. If it wasn’t for them, we’d have a boat just sitting there.

How do you juggle your day job with your volunteering?

With difficulty! It can be hard at times, but most of the time it’s a piece of cake, no problem.

And what do your family and friends think about your involvement with the RNLI?

All my family are involved. My sons help me out when I need it. My wife; my mother; my mother-in-law. I rope in everyone! It’s a family affair.

If I didn’t have my wife’s backing I wouldn’t be doing it. The partners in the committee go unnoticed really. I always thank the partners because without them, we wouldn’t have the volunteers. They’re a big link in the chain.

What do you like to do in any spare time you have?

For the past 20 odd years I have done football coaching at some of the local school clubs. But this year I’ve decided to take a break because I’m trying to spend as much time as I can with my grandkids. I have two – a one-year-old and a 5-month-old.

Mayday (1–4 May) is going to be the RNLI’s biggest fundraising campaign this year. Why is it so important to Arklow and what will you be doing for it?

We’re going to the Bridgewater Shopping Centre. We’ve having a Then and Now stall with pictures of what Arklow RNLI used to look like and what it looks like now. You might even spot yourself in one of the photos!

On Saturday 2 May at 11am we're holding a Welly Walk / Fun Run from Arklow's Coral Leisure Centre. There are 5K and 10K runs with timing chips and medals for everyone. And there's going to be a Perpetual Trophy for the emergency services team that finishes first in the 5K event! You can register online at www.athleticstiming.com or just turn up on the day at 10am.

We’re also going in to schools and different clubs to give talks to the children. We visit different classes and clubs each year. We try to get a crew member to come with us because what happens is when I’m doing the talking, the first question is: ‘Are you a crew member?’ And when I say, ‘No’, you see their interest disappear. They want to hear from the hero!

We get the teachers to sell the yellow welly pin badges and keyrings. And then we invite the children down to the station and give them a tour and tell them all about the lifeboat.

So they’ll remember that. And when they’re adults and I’m not around anymore they’ll say: ‘I remember the time I went down to see the lifeboat station and they told us the story of the lifeboat and it was brilliant.’

Arklow Sea Scouts also have their Welly Day where they throw their wellies. The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and soccer clubs see who can hit the ball the furthest. And the bigger schools have non-uniform day. We go down and sell the yellow welly pin badges and keyrings.

So it’s for the future of Arklow RNLI. That’s what we use Mayday for.

How much money did Arklow raise during Mayday last year?

A good €2,500.

What would you say to people thinking of getting involved in Mayday?

You’ll have fun. You’ll make a lot of friends. And you’ll find a new passion.

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