By Dan Walsh
Volunteer lifeboat crews with the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) are ready to sacrifice time with their loved ones over Christmas to save lives on the water, so please consider their Christmas fundraising appeal.
There is an amazing story at Kilmore Quay where one dedicated family has four members involved in the lifesaving work of the lifeboats, with three of them on call over Christmas and one helping raise funds for the service provided by the charity.
The Roche family are well known in the Kilmore Quay area of Wexford and between them volunteer in different ways for the RNLI. Through saving lives at sea, sharing water safety advice or raising funds for the lifeboat station, they each give dedicated service to the charity that saves lives at sea.
Declan Roche has been on the lifeboat crew since he was 18 years of age and out with his father on his fishing boat. His son Michael has now followed him onto the crew, along with his nephew Dean, who has also passed out as a lifeboat mechanic. Joining them in their volunteering is Dean’s wife Aoife, who is a member of the local fundraising branch. Lifeboats truly is a family affair for the Roches.
The sea is in the Roche family’s blood with Declan’s grandfather being involved in the Light Ships and then Lighthouses. Both he and his nephew fished with Declan’s father. To have both son and nephew alongside him on the lifeboat crew is something he is very proud of, and the group often go out on the same callouts if they turn up together when the pagers go off.
Declan also volunteers as a water safety officer and is one of the charity’s GAA ambassadors, delivering talks to clubs and other organisations and groups, on how to stay safe on the water.
Speaking about why he volunteers for the lifeboat charity, Declan said; “I’ve been involved in a lot of rescues during my time on the lifeboat crew and you never know when you might need help. There have been huge changes in the kit we use and in how training is carried out, but there is still the lifeboat crew that go out in all weathers to save a life. That doesn’t change. When I joined Kilmore Quay RNLI, I had a fishing background, but lifeboat crew come from all backgrounds, and some have no professional maritime experience when they join.” “The training is rigorous, and you get what you put in. We trust them because we train them, and we know that everyone of us is there to save lives,” said Declan, who added; “With our work in water safety, getting to people before they get into trouble, you can see that people are more open and engaged to listen to safety advice as more people are venturing out on the water for activities. One memory I have is of a rescue over the Christmas period where we went out to a windsurfer in trouble. We did the job and brought him home safe. Some years later, he popped up when he brought his class into the station for a safety talk. We had no idea it was him, but he remembered that day well and now he was making sure his kids know about water safety. That’s great to see and means we are making a difference. We couldn’t do it without the support of the public and we never take it for granted.”
The call outs of the lifeboat crew at Christmas, or during any of the 364 days of the year, 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.