Two RNLI volunteers from Larne have been honoured at the charity’s annual presentation of awards in Northern Ireland.
The event which was staged at the Belfast Harbour Commissioner’s Office honoured 21 awardees recognising their dedication and commitment to volunteering over long periods of time in a bid to raise funds and awareness and to help save lives at sea.
The ceremony was opened by Christopher Brooke, a member of the RNLI Council of Ireland. Mr Brooke welcomed the awardees and their families before introducing the guest speaker, outgoing RNLI Chairman Charles Hunter-Pease.
Among the local awardees were Lilian Stewart who was presented with a Gold Badge and Jeffrey Bell who received a 20 year Long Service Badge.
Guests heard how Lillian had been an active member of the Larne Fundraising Branch since 1996 and held the position of secretary for almost 20 years. She was a person who was always willing to take on new pop-up shop venues to boost the branch souvenir sales and was enthusiastic in looking for new and innovative fundraising opportunities.
Lillian had been a key driving force in helping the Larne branch reach an average annual income each year, for the last 10 years. She was further described as being a real asset to the branch through her extensive fundraising support and her networking to raise awareness of the RNLI. Her passion for saving lives at sea guest heard, was infectious.
Jeffrey meanwhile was described as a stalwart of the lifeboat team in Larne for over 20 years. He had conducted numerous services as navigator, helm and crew member with some of these carried out in difficult and demanding conditions.
Jeff continued to bring a wealth of experience to lifeboating and was always willing to share his knowledge, particularly in casualty care and navigation, with his fellow volunteers.
Speaking at the ceremony, outgoing RNLI chairman Charles Hunter-Pease said there were a range of differing reasons why people volunteered for the RNLI: ‘There are the friendships forged through a common lifesaving aim. The thrill of seeing visitors enjoying your carefully planned events. The weight of a heavy bucket after a hard day’s collecting. And, yes many are motivated to volunteer for us by the pain of losing a loved one to the sea. They have converted that loss into a determination to make a difference to the lives of others.’
He said it was truly humbling to think of the collective years’ experience and care that was in the room: ‘To everyone one of you receiving an award – whether your service has been at sea or ashore – wear it with pride. It is the mark of someone very special, selflessly dedicated to the lives of others.’