Four crew in new roles look to first Christmas on call at Clogherhead RNLI

Lifeboats News Release

A Lifeboat Operations Manager, Station Mechanic, Lifeboat Press Officer and Administrative Officer are among four crew who in their respective roles will be on call for the first time this Christmas at Clogherhead RNLI.

RNLI/Clogherhead

Pictured standing to the back, Barry Sharkey and Robin Barnes with Tony Campion and Sheelagh Marry sitting to the front.

As the charity launches its Christmas appeal asking the public for help to continue its lifesaving work at sea, Tony Campion, Barry Sharkey, Robin Barnes and Sheelagh Marry will be among the wider station team prepared to drop their Christmas festivities if the pager sounds and the lifeboat is called to sea.

They like hundreds of other volunteers around Ireland, have signed up to save every one from drowning – it has been the charity’s mission since 1824.

This Christmas many will leave their loved ones behind to answer the call, each time hoping to reunite another family, and see those in trouble at sea safely returned.

During the festive period from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day over the last five years from 2017-2021, RNLI lifeboats in the Irish region launched 55 times and brought 43 people to safety.

Last year alone, lifeboats across the island launched 1,078 times, with volunteer crews bringing 1,485 people to safety, 21 of whom were lives saved.

But these rescues 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.

Barry Sharkey joined Clogherhead RNLI in 2015. He has been lifeboat crew on the station’s Shannon class lifeboat, Michael O’Brien, since its arrival in 2019 and he began a mechanic plan shortly afterwards. Barry became the successor for long serving mechanic Padraig Rath when he retired earlier this year.

‘I follow a family tradition with my late grandfather having been a crewmember and my uncle a Coxswain. My father and brother are currently Coxswains. Coming from a fishing family I joined the lifeboat crew to assist in keeping our fishing and local community safe as they take to the sea.’

Among his many duties, Barry carries out routine maintenance of the station’s Shannon class lifeboat and its launch and recovery equipment.

‘What I find most rewarding is being part of this current team and continuing to provide an excellent service as was done by the many great people before us, it is also rewarding to receive the utmost respect and support from the community and people of the north east.’

Lifeboat Administrative Officer Sheelagh Marry joined the lifeboat crew in 2010. Having always had a passion for water sports and being from a small fishing village, she always wanted to give back: ‘Unfortunately there have been many tragedies down through the years and I have always had massive respect for the effort and commitment past and present crews put in. In the admin role, I now help with the paperwork and keep the administration up to date. I'm delighted to be able to give some time to something that is an integral part of our village.’

Lifeboat Press Officer Robin Barnes joined Clogherhead RNLI in May this year. Having worked in the community for 12 years and living nearby, he was involved in fundraising for the new Shannon class lifeboat.

‘As a child I was very familiar with the lifeboat spending summer holidays in Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford where it is an integral part of the community like Clogherhead,’ Robin explains. ‘Now that I'm retired, I have time to be more actively involved. My role as Lifeboat Press Officer gives me the opportunity to promote the fine work done by the volunteers at Clogherhead RNLI and to celebrate the work done by those who have been involved before us as well. I was an educator in my professional life. This role is not entirely different. It is an important one and I never underestimate that.’

As for what he finds rewarding, Robin says: ‘For me, it's good to make some small contribution to the work done by Clogherhead RNLI as I have always had great respect for the charity and what these volunteers do. The crew at Clogherhead RNLI are always very encouraging which is important.’

Lifeboat Operations Manager Tony Campion took over from long serving volunteer Declan Levins in July: ‘My connections with the station were indirect up until joining this year,’ he says. ‘My son was a crew member in the past as was my brother-in-law.

My father-in-law was the tractor driver for nearly 40 years and other relations on my side of the family have also been crew members in the past.

‘The opportunity to be part of the team presented itself earlier this year, I had taken an early retirement in 2021 and the role of station manager provides a great balance between organisational and people management, areas I had worked in for over 40 years, and my love of boats and the sea. In my view it’s a privilege to get the opportunity to contribute in some way to my local station and the great work its volunteers do throughout the year.’

In the short time he has been in the role, Tony says he has been impressed by the commitment and dedication of volunteers participating in training and exercises but most impressed by the turnout of people who respond to emergency situations: ‘Their willingness to do what is needed to assist others in trouble at sea I find very motivating. Just being part of that is hugely rewarding in my opinion. I’m very proud to be able to play a small part in the Clogherhead RNLI station which has had such an important role on this part of the coast since 1899.’

Should that emergency call come this Christmas, all four like their fellow crew at Clogherhead RNLI will be ready and willing to respond: ‘Even at Christmas, our lifesavers are ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and rush to the aid of someone in trouble on the water. At this time of year, the weather is at its worst and lives are on the line,’ Barry said.

‘We know that every time our crews go out they hope for a good outcome, but sadly this sometimes isn’t the case.

‘There’s no feeling quite like bringing someone home safe to their families – especially at Christmas. As lifeboat crew we couldn’t rescue people without kind donations from the public which fund the kit, training and equipment we need to save others and get home safely to our families.’

Winter can be one of the most challenging times to be a lifeboat volunteer with shorter days and the worst weather conditions of the year. But the dedication and courage shown by RNLI lifesavers means that, when the call to rescue comes in, they are ready and willing to head out. No matter if it’s the middle of a dark winter’s night, or in freezing sub-zero temperatures.

To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal visit: RNLI.org/Xmas

Ends

Photo Detail

Pictured standing to the back, Barry Sharkey and Robin Barnes with Tony Campion and Sheelagh Marry sitting to the front.

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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