Michael awarded for 30 years’ service with Coastguard

Michael McSparron (left) was presented with his 30 year service award with Mandy Johnston who received her 20 year service award from Jeff Hobson, senior coastal operations officer, HM Coastguard.
Michael McSparron (left) was presented with his 30 year service award with Mandy Johnston who received her 20 year service award from Jeff Hobson, senior coastal operations officer, HM Coastguard.

Carnlough man Michael McSparron has been awarded a long service medal in recognition of 30 years with Portmuck Coastguard.

The tribute was handed over during a presentation at East Antrim Boat Club recently.

Michael, who is a member of the Larne team, recalled that he was encouraged to join after taking part in the search for a local man who was lost off Garron Point.

“I got involved in the search and was bitten by the bug,” he said.

“I was approached by an officer to see if I would be interested in joining Portmuck Search and Rescue, so I put my name down.

“It has been absolutely fantastic. I have made some really good, genuine friends. It is a great organisation to be involved with.

“I have seen a lot of changes over the years such as search and rescue techniques and how they have become better over the years.

“There is now better kit for extracting a casualty. The equipment has come on leaps and bounds even in the past few years. It is now modern and lightweight.”

One of the most memorable rescues for Michael occurred on his “doorstep”.

“On one occasion in Carnlough, I was called out from my own house, took my own boat and rescued five kids and a dog from north of the bay after they floated out on a rubber ring.

“It was just a case of striking while the iron was hot.”

He admitted that sometimes when the Coastguard receives a call, it can result in the discovery of a dead body in the sea.

“When you are heading out, you do not know what you are going to.”

He has estimated that over the past 33 years, he has been involved in saving the lives of approximately 50 people.

He noted that the number of emergencies “quadruples” during the summer in a district which extends from Carrick to Foyle in the north west.

Colleague Mandy Johnston’s 20-year service was also officially recognised with a long service medal presented by senior officer Jeff Hobson.