Kinsale RNLI has appointed five new lifeboat crew this Christmas as the station stands ready to launch at a moment’s notice to save lives at sea. They also welcomed a new member to the fundraising team, Ernestine Kingston, who got off to a flying start by taking part in the annual Reindeer Run at Fota House. Finn Bowen, Mark Cotter, Jon Green, Thomas Grennan and John Walley, all joined the station shortly before the first lockdown. Kinsale RNLI has remained on call throughout the pandemic, enabling the volunteers to successfully complete their training and progress from their shore-based roles to become members of the lifeboat crew.
All six volunteers helped the charity launch its Christmas appeal at the Kinsale lifeboat station and are calling on the public to support the RNLI’s lifesaving work as they remain on call and ready to launch.
With over 1,500 lifeboat volunteers in Ireland, each RNLI crew member signs up to save anyone from drowning – the charity’s mission since 1824. This Christmas, many will leave loved ones behind to answer the call, each time hoping to reunite another family, and see those in trouble at sea safely returned to land.
Nineteen-year-old Thomas Grennan says the lifeboat has been part of his life for as long as he can remember. His dad Jim is a Kinsale RNLI lifeboat helm, who was involved in some of the station’s most dramatic rescues and has been featured on the BBC TV series Saving Lives at Sea.
Thomas says volunteering with the RNLI was never in doubt: ‘It was always a given that I would join the crew. I can remember going to crew meetings with my dad when I was just five or six, and it felt like an extension of our life at home. When the pager went off, dad would just be gone and we all accepted that and understood how important it was for him to go. As soon as I was old enough, I joined as shore crew. The RNLI offers incredible opportunities to train, and I have learned so much from the more experienced crew members, dad included, who share their knowledge and experience with us. Being a member of the RNLI during the pandemic wasn’t all that bad, it just slowed my training down a bit. I enjoy the opportunity that’s given to learn new things and I think it’s nice to be a part of something that’s bigger than yourself. It feels good to be able to play a central role in helping people that may come to need it this Christmas.’
John Walley has no family history in the RNLI, but says he felt compelled to join the lifeboat when he left city life behind and moved to the coastal community of Kinsale. His promotion to boat crew in August coincided with the arrival of his first child, which John says has given him an added perspective on the work of RNLI: ‘When the lifeboat launches, you are always conscious that you are going out to help somebody else’s son or daughter, and there is a family on shore desperate to get them home safely. Being a new parent, I realise that one day it could by my own child who needs help, and it is obvious to me that the training we receive, and the speed of our response really can make the difference between life and death.’ John says part of the appeal of the RNLI is that it attracts people from all walks of life who have different skills and strengths but are united in a common purpose: ‘The RNLI is a voluntary organisation but the standards are totally professional. There are many workplaces that don’t have the same level of expectation and commitment as we have. There is no ambiguity - there are only four of us on the lifeboat when it launches so we must have total trust and confidence in each other, and we must all know what is expected of us. That is why the training we receive from the RNLI is crucial. It’s great to work with the more experienced crew members who give so much of their time to get us all up to the levels required. I have also been amazed by the generosity of the local community who help to fund the essential kit, training and equipment needed by lifeboat crews all year round. I am proud to be part of it.’
Ernestine Kingston is the newest member of Kinsale’s fundraising team. Born and raised in the town, she already knew many RNLI crew members before deciding to sign up herself: ‘I live and work within the local community and I really wanted to give something back and make a difference. I don’t think I have ‘sea legs’ to be out in the lifeboat. The safest place for me is on dry land so I decided to join the fundraising crew. I dusted off my antlers and polished up my hooves to take part in the Reindeer Run at Fota House and am so grateful to everyone who helped me raise over €700 to support the work of the RNLI. I am so excited for the year ahead and the value I can add to the crew and the fundraising activities but we all know we could not do what we do without the support and generosity of the public.’ To donate to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal visit www.rnli