RNLI recognises Achill Island lifeboat family dedicated to saving lives at sea

Lifeboats News Release

The RNLI is shining a light on the families who keep the charity afloat through volunteering this Christmas.

RNLI/Eilish Power

The Kilbane Family

The Kilbane family from Achill Island in County Mayo have devoted a substantial amount of time to lifesaving with the RNLI. As lifeboat crew, fundraisers and launch authorities, husband and wife, Paddy and Maria, along with their children Patricia, Yvonne, Patrick and Eayna, have, between them, dozens of rescues under their belts, since the station opened on Achill Island back in 1996. As the search and rescue charity launches a Christmas fundraising appeal at RNLI.org/Xmas, the RNLI is highlighting the families who volunteer over Christmas and all year round, to save lives at sea.

The Kilbane family are made up of husband and wife, Paddy and Maria, with their grown-up children Patricia, Yvonne, Patrick and Eayna. Paddy was a Launch Authority for the lifeboat until his retirement in 2011. This important role is the point of contact between the station and the Coast Guard when a call for help is received and they are responsible for setting off the pagers, that summon the lifeboat crew and launch the lifeboat. Maria, Paddy’s wife, started her involvement back in 1995 with fundraising, prior to the station being established in 1996. Following this, she tried her hand at being trainee crew before returning to the workforce and then coming back to the station to become a Launch Authority herself in 2018, a role she still holds today.

Both Paddy and Maria are passionate about fundraising for their local lifeboat, carrying out the church gate collection in Derreens every year for the last 26 years. Paddy also received an award from the RNLI in 2019 after he came to the aid of the crew of a vessel in trouble, taking out his own boat to rescue them when he saw them in difficulty from the shore.

Their children caught the bug and became lifeboat volunteers themselves. Their eldest daughter, Patricia, and youngest daughter, Eayna, both helped their parents with fundraising activities, while Yvonne volunteered as crew from 2003 to 2009 before joining An Garda Siochána and being stationed outside the area. She has also been involved in rescues in her role. Their son Patrick joined the lifeboat crew in 2008 and currently volunteers as crew. He has spent much of the last 20 years working at sea in the Merchant Navy, currently working for Seabourn Cruise Line as part of the shoreside Marine Operations team.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is launching its Christmas appeal, as the charity asks for help to continue its lifesaving work at sea. With over a thousand lifeboat volunteers around Ireland, each RNLI crew member signs up to save everyone 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. Over the past five years, RNLI lifeboats have launched 55 times during the festive period, bringing 44 people to safety. 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.

Commenting on the need for support of the charity, Maria Kilbane, Achill Island RNLI Deputy Launching Authority said, ‘We are a lifeboat family through and through. Where we live, on the beautiful island of Achill, it makes sense to give something back and be of service to those who made need help. Our whole family has been involved in the lifeboat, at one time or another and we see the lifeboat from our doorstep. Even at Christmas, 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, but the lifeboat always stands ready.’

Her son, Patrick Kilbane, Achill Island RNLI volunteer crew member continued: ‘There’s no feeling quite like bringing someone home safe to their families. The lifeboat crew 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. We are eternally grateful to those who support the work of the lifeboats in Ireland.’

The RNLI is launching 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


RNLI/Nigel Millard

Paddy and Maria Kilbane

RNLI/Nigel Millard

Patrick Kilbane with partner, Diana, and youngest daughter, Grace. Missing from photo is eldest daughter, Lucia.

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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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.