Celebrating 80 years of service to humanity

Isabel Apsley, Larne Mayor Maureen Morrow and Councillor Gerardine Mulvenna at the 80th anniversary dinner of the Larne St John Ambulance. INLT 49-804-CON
Isabel Apsley, Larne Mayor Maureen Morrow and Councillor Gerardine Mulvenna at the 80th anniversary dinner of the Larne St John Ambulance. INLT 49-804-CON

A special celebration has been held to mark the 80th anniversary of the Larne divisioni of St John Ambulance.

Over the years dedicated members of the organisation have given up their time to care for others, especially those who have been injured or become ill and familiar faces at public events, gatherings and sports fixtures throughout the borough.

Today’s St John Ambulance has its roots more than 900 years ago when the Order of St John was founded in Jerusalem at the end of the First Crusade where there was a hospice for sick and weary pilgrims visiting the Holy Land. In Britain the Order’s history dates back to the mid-12th century when a priory was built at Clerkenwell, London, but it was not until the Crimean War that public awareness together with a desire for knowledge of first aid and nursing led to the formation of St John Ambulance in 1877.

With the industrial revolution there were many accidents in the workplace so people needed to have a knowledge of how to help the injured. Initially the aims of St John Ambulance Association were to teach such subjects as first aid, nursing and hygiene and the supply of ambulance equipment. Ten years later St John Ambulance Brigade was formed as a voluntary organisation to assist in times of war and peace.

Today it is known simply as St John Ambulance – a recognised body of volunteers qualified to provide first aid cover at public events, in civil emergencies and to be of assistance to the statutory ambulance service. Its volunteers are ordinary people who want to feel able to help others in times of distress through injury or sudden illness.

Following on from first aid classes being held at Belfast in 1881, work of the St John organisation spread throughout Ireland. Classes under the auspices of St John Ambulance were being held locally from 1903 and there was a very active St John Voluntary Aid Detachment based at Larne Harbour during World War 1.

Larne Nursing Division was formed on October 24, 1933 and for some time it has been the most senior division in Northern Ireland.

Over the years there have been many changes – during the WW2 period there was more emphasis on anti-gas and air raid precaution lectures. Apart from public duties, members were doing requisite training in nursing and working in military hospitals or for the Civil Nursing Reserve. Today members can progress from being a first aider to a patient transport attendant or qualify as an emergency transport attendant.

That ladies’ Nursing Division formed in 1933 was obviously successful so in 1940 Larne Ambulance Division (for men) was formed and operational until 1979. It was around that time it become a combined (mixed gender) division.

In Larne St John Ambulance caters for all age groups including the more senior former members – Phillips Badger Sett for the five-10-year-olds has been running since 1993, the current Cadet Division since 1984 and Inver Branch of the St John Fellowship was formed in 2003.

Affiliated to St John Ambulance is Islandmagee First Responders formed in 2004.

Each year over the past 80 years the time volunteered by members has been steadily increasing. During 2012 almost 7,000 hours were volunteered by members and already in 2013 that figure is set to be passed.

Excellent training has provided members with the skills to save lives and it is with commitment from volunteers that Larne Division of St John Ambulance is ready to meet the ever changing humanitarian needs. Whilst the division currently has two ambulances and a cycle response unit - two bicycles used as a pair - knowledge gained and ‘hands-on’ care are foremost in helping those who have been injured or suddenly become ill.

The past 80 years may have rolled by but St John Ambulance volunteers in Larne are still as committed as ever to their motto “Pro Utilitate Hominum – For the Service of Humanity”.