Inisturk islander celebrates 89th Christmas at home following Achill Island RNLI medical evacuation

Inisturk 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, having been medically evacuated 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. 

RNLI All-weather lifeboat moving through the water


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 this year.  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.  

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.  Anne continued: ‘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. 

Annie said: ‘Dad has made a remarkable recovery following his return home. 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.’

Annie 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 online

For more information on the RNLI please visit News releases and other media resources, including RSS feeds, downloadable photos and video, are available at the RNLI News Centre

RNLI media contacts 

For more information, please contact Eilish Power, Achill Island RNLI Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer on 0872075203, email [email protected] or Niamh Stephenson, RNLI Regional Media Manager on 087 1254 124 or [email protected] 
Or Nuala McAloon, RNLI Regional Media Officer on 087 648 3547 or email [email protected] 



Inisturk islander, John O’Toole, with his wife, Mary


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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For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.