RNLI in Northern Ireland Celebrates ‘Excellence in Volunteering’


RNLI stations in Northern Ireland are celebrating several volunteers who were presented with long-service medals at Belfast Castle recently.

Held this year for the first time since the Covid pandemic, the event was attended by the deputy chairman of the RNLI, Eddie Donaldson; RNLI head of region (Ireland) Anna Classon; and trustee and council member for Great Britain and Ireland, Paddy McLaughlin.

The celebration was held to recognize the long service of volunteers from stations across Northern Ireland.

Patricia Crossley from the Ballymoney fundraising team received her 50-year award. Pat first got involved after when returning from a family outing to Belfast on 31 January 1953 and saw the lit-up revolving news on a building which said the Princess Victoria had sunk and the Donaghadee lifeboat was involved in the rescue.

Pat’s family had always holidayed in Donaghadee, and her father was a lifeboat supporter, so the following morning they went to Donaghadee and watched as the lifeboat The Sir Samuel Kelly returned with some survivors.

On that day Pat said to her father that when she was older, she’d love to do something to help lifeboats. So, from the 1960s to the present day Pat has been involved with the RNLI.

She was a flag day collector in Lisburn and Hillsborough, and since moving north 40 years ago has been involved with the Ballymoney branch, at the invitation of the then branch secretary and headmaster of Dalriada School, the late Alan Reynolds.

Pat became Flag Day organizer, a post she still holds. Pat also holds her silver and gold badge presented by the RNLI.

Jo May from Portrush and Portstewart fundraising team received its 40-year award. Jo first got involved with the Portrush branch of the RNLI after she was SCUBA diving at Ballintoy in the early 1980s and got caught in a rip tide.

Luckily, she didn’t need the lifeboat that day as she was rescued by a fisherman who happened to be on scene. But from that day has had a healthy respect for the power of the sea and has always been an enthusiastic supporter.

Jo has been a stalwart of the fundraising events, and with her sense of style and expertise in hospitality her events are always expertly run and organised.

Jo’s latest triumph and her proudest achievement was the champagne breakfast with Graeme McDowell that she organized during the Open when it first came to Portrush, raising £36,000. Jo’s particular event is the annual RNLI BBQ held at 55º North in Portrush.

Jo said recently: “I love volunteering with the RNLI, and will continue to fundraise as long as I am physically able. The team was called the Ladies’ Guild in the early days, but it has certainly evolved since then. I enjoy being part of such a vibrant team.”

Those recognized on the day also include the following:

  • Kerry Gregg, ex-coxswain and deputy launching authority at Portrush RNLI received his 20-year award.
  • Carl Kennedy, water safety officer and deputy launching authority at Portrush RNLI received his 20-year award.
  • Bernie Riley of the Ballymoney branch received a 20-year award.

Others who were awarded long service medals but couldn’t attend the ceremony were:

  • Rodney Byrne, box secretary — 40-year award (Portrush)
  • Mac Pollock – 40 years (Ballymoney)
  • Anne McCusker – 30 years (Ballymoney)
  • David Elliot – 30 years (Ballymoney)
  • Bill McCormick – 30 years (Ballymoney)
  • Dorothy and John Weeks, retired shop supervisors – 20-year award (Portrush)
  • Judy Nelson, volunteer lifeboat press officer – 20-year award (Portrush)

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