Howth RNLI recalls Christmas Day call out five years ago
As the RNLI launches its Christmas appeal asking for help to continue its lifesaving work at sea, Howth RNLI Coxswain Fred Connolly has been recalling a Christmas Day call out five years ago.
Like hundreds of volunteers around Ireland, Fred who has been on the crew in Howth for over 27 years and a Coxswain for the last seven, he has 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, across the RNLI, lifeboats launched 1,078 times, with volunteer crews bringing 1,485 people to safety, 21 of whom were lives saved. In Dublin, lifeboats at Skerries, Howth and Dun Laoghaire launched 157 times bringing 181 people to safety.
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.
Fred was one of a strong team of volunteers who dropped their Christmas dinner plans in 2017 to launch both the all-weather and inshore lifeboats and help in the search for a missing person. The search was subsequently stood down when the person was found safe and well. Among the team were six crew members on the all-weather lifeboat, three on the inshore lifeboat, Deputy Launching Authorities and shore crew.
‘It was just after 2.30pm when the pagers went off,’ Fred says. ‘The inshore lifeboat was requested to launch first by the Irish Coast Guard. The all-weather lifeboat was subsequently launched, and I was the Coxswain on that. The Coast Guard helicopter, Rescue 116 from Dublin and the Garda helicopter were also tasked. We searched for approximately an hour before we were stood down as thankfully the person had been located safe and well.
‘You are always apprehensive at Christmas time in case the pager would go off, but you are also always willing and ready and prepared to go when required. On this occasion, we were still preparing the dinner when the pager went off and I remember we had family members we had invited who were walking the pier when they saw the lifeboats launch and they were wondering if there was going to be a dinner at all. Thankfully, all ended well for those involved which was the most important thing and we were able to get back to our Christmas dinner in good time.’
Should the pager go off again this Christmas, Fred says like every other RNLI volunteer on call, there will be no hesitation: ‘Even at Christmas as was the case five years ago for us, 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. 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.’
To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal visit: RNLI.org/Xmas
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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