Christmas on call for Newcastle RNLI father and son volunteers

Lifeboats News Release

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) will see its volunteer lifeboat crews sacrifice time with their loved ones to save others this Christmas.

Gerry and Sean McConkey who volunteer at Newcastle RNLI

RNLI/Newcastle

Gerry and Sean McConkey who volunteer at Newcastle RNLI

As the search and rescue charity launches a Christmas fundraising appeal, the RNLI is highlighting the volunteers who will be on call over Christmas to save lives at sea. Father and son, Sean and Gerry McConkey, are two such volunteers at Newcastle RNLI, one is a Deputy Launching Authority and the other a Coxswain on the lifeboat. Both will be on call over the festive period, ready to drop everything and respond to a call to someone in difficulty on the water. They are one of a team of dedicated volunteers at the county Down lifeboat station.

Last Christmas (24 December 2021–1 January 2022), RNLI lifeboat crews across the UK and Ireland saved the lives of eight people, the highest number recorded in five years. The charity’s volunteer crews aided 88 people during the festive period in 2021, which is an 87% increase from 2020 and the highest number recorded since 2018. The latest figures come as the RNLI seeks support for its Christmas Appeal to save every one at RNLI.org/Xmas

Sean McConkey is a Volunteer Deputy Launch Authority with Newcastle RNLI while his son Gerry, is one of the station Coxswains. Gerry grew up on fishing boats and loved the sea. His father Sean had previously volunteered at the station and had been away from it for some years, before his son encouraged him to come back and volunteer in a different capacity. Both father and son will be on call over Christmas, as will the thirty plus volunteers who make up the Newcastle lifeboat station, crew, shore crew and station management. The volunteers must train all year to be ready for any eventuality out at sea and the station’s two lifeboats are available for whatever emergency arises.

Speaking about why he volunteers for the lifeboat charity, Newcastle RNLI Deputy Launching Authority Sean McConkey said, ‘When I returned to volunteer at the lifeboat station, the first time my pager went off, it was the middle of the night, and I was fast asleep in bed. My wife immediately turned on the light and while I was on the phone to the coastguard she had already my clothes sorted so I could rush out. The training the crew go through is rigorous, but it means everyone knows their role and they are ready for anything. When we had the callout to a team of rowers back in the summer, I had to forget that my son was Coxswain and trust in the training. I am so proud of everyone involved with the station who give so much of their time to this service and back to the community.’

‘The support we receive from the community is incredible. There will be a Christmas day swim for the lifeboats, and we have a group of fundraisers who support us in or work. The rescues the lifeboat crew carry out would not be possible without donations from the public who help to fund the essential kit, training and equipment needed by lifeboat crews all year round. I’ll be hoping for a quiet Christmas for the lifeboat crews and for them to enjoy time with their families, but if the call for help comes, we will be ready.’

The RNLI has launched its Christmas appeal, as the charity asks for help to continue its lifesaving work at sea. To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal visit: RNLI.org/Xmas

The RNLI encourage those visiting coastal areas this Christmas to:

  • Check the weather forecast, tide times and read local hazard signage to understand local risks.
  • If you get into trouble Float to Live – lie on your back and relax, resisting the urge to thrash about.
  • In an emergency dial 999 and ask for the coastguard

RNLI media contacts

For more information, please contact Kenny Gracey Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer

Newcastle RNLI Tel: 077 9374 3470 or Niamh Stephenson, RNLI Regional Media Manager on 087 1254 124 or Ni[email protected]

Or Nuala McAloon, RNLI Regional Media Officer on 087 648 3547 or email [email protected]

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.