The Clifden brothers on the front line in saving lives
The RNLI is shining a light on the families who keep the charity afloat by volunteering this Christmas. Brothers James and John Mullen help save lives at sea in their role as volunteer Coxswains with Clifden RNLI while their day job is working on the front-line saving lives as paramedics.
As the lifesaving charity launches a Christmas fundraising appeal after a challenging year dealing with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the RNLI is highlighting some of the families who have been prepared to give up their Christmas’ to save lives at sea for years.
John and James both signed up as volunteer lifeboat crew when they were younger, James having to obtain written permission from their parents as he was only seventeen years old. The brothers have been close all their lives and work alternative shifts in their paramedic roles. If you call an ambulance in Clifden, the odds are good it will be James or John who will help you. As this year began, neither brother was aware how different it would be and how they would have to use all their training to come to grips with the new reality of lifesaving during a pandemic.
Commenting on the last year James said, ‘It’s been an emotional roller coaster of a year. It started as normal but when lockdown came, lifeboat calls slowed, and we were not able to train. However, once restrictions eased with the fine weather, our callouts went steadily up, and we were very busy. We noticed more people on the beaches and more people going out on paddleboards and the dreaded inflatables. We were busy but we had to do it with PPE and keeping our crew and the public safe.’
John added, ‘We’ve had to change our whole way of working as a lifeboat crew during the pandemic. You can no longer rush down to the station and training is something that needs to be planned with a view to what volunteer needs what training to keep on top of everything. Sadly there is less socialising and the cuppa after the exercise or callout is gone. We look at the crew now and think, ‘who can we let go out on a callout? Do we have enough Coxswains or navigators if someone gets sick or needs to isolate?’ These are all to be factored into our volunteering now and it’s something we take very seriously. We’ve worked hard to keep our lifeboats on service this year and I’m very proud of everyone at the station.’
The lifeboat crew are back to exercising and training once a week. James, in his role as Lifeboat Training Coordinator at the station sees who needs to go out urgently as he wants all the crew to keep up their skills and be familiar with both lifeboats. In a lifeboat emergency all crew must be ready for what is thrown at them. The station will be receiving their own Shannon class lifeboat in the future and it’s one that will carry 10,000 names from the public through the Launch a Memory appeal.
RNLI lifesavers across 46 lifeboat stations are prepared to rush out of the door at the sound of their pager, even during their Christmas dinner. This year the charity has spent €1.3M on PPE, including face masks, gloves and thousands of litres of hand sanitiser. This is money the charity hadn’t budgeted for but needed to be spent to keep its lifesavers and the public protected during the coronavirus crisis. As a charity, the RNLI relies on the support of the public to continue saving lives – and that support is needed now more than ever. The charity has launched its Christmas Appeal and are hoping the public will give generously as face to face fundraising has had to stop. To support, visit: RNLI.org/Xmas
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Key facts about the RNLI
The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.
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