30 old pictures: Northern Ireland looks back as RNLI celebrates 200th milestone and over 146,000 lives saved

At the charity’s 10 lifeboat stations in Northern Ireland, lifeboats have launched 9,472 times with their volunteers saving 1,535 lives and coming to the aid of thousands of more

As the charity turns 200, the RNLI is revealing its volunteer lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved an incredible 146,277 lives during its two centuries of lifesaving.

At the charity’s 10 lifeboat stations in Northern Ireland, lifeboats have launched 9,472 times with their volunteers saving 1,535 lives and coming to the aid of thousands of more. Since the introduction of lifeguards to Northern Ireland in 2011, the RNLI’s seasonal teams based along the Causeway Coast and in county Down have responded to 2,894 incidents, coming to the aid of 3,461 people, 47 of whom were lives saved.

Since the charity was founded in 1824, its volunteer crews have launched the lifeboats 380,328 times, saving 144,277 lives, while its lifeguards – who became part of the RNLI’s lifesaving service in 2001 – have responded to 303,030 incidents on some of the UK’s busiest beaches, saving 2,000 lives. In total, 146,277 lives have been saved by the RNLI – this equates to an average of two lives saved every day for 200 years.

Founded in a London tavern on March 4 1824 following an appeal from Sir William Hillary, who lived on the Isle of Man and witnessed many shipwrecks, the RNLI has continued saving lives at sea throughout the tests of its history, including tragic disasters, funding challenges and two World Wars.

Two centuries have seen vast developments in the lifeboats and kit used by the charity’s lifesavers – from the early oar-powered vessels to today’s technology-packed boats, which are now built in-house by the charity; and from the rudimentary cork lifejackets of the 1850s to the full protective kit each crew member is now issued with.

The RNLI’s lifesaving reach and remit has also developed over the course of 200 years. Today, it operates 238 lifeboat stations around the UK and Ireland and has seasonal lifeguards on over 240 lifeguarded beaches around the UK. It designs and builds its own lifeboats and runs domestic and international water safety programmes.

While much has changed in 200 years, two things have remained the same – the charity’s dependence on volunteers, who give their time and commitment to save others, and the voluntary contributions from the public which have funded the service for the past two centuries.

To mark the occasion in Northern Ireland, Council offices have been lit up in yellow and local volunteers, officials and crew attended the 200 year ceremony in London last Monday.

RNLI trustee Paddy McLaughlin, also a volunteer at Red Bay RNLI in Cushendall, said: “It is an honour and a privilege to see and be a part of this lifesaving organisation as it reaches its bicentenary. For a charity to have survived 200 years based on the time and commitment of volunteers, and the sheer generosity of the public donating to fund it, is truly remarkable. It is through the courage and dedication of its incredible people that the RNLI has survived the tests of time.

“This week as we mark the bicentenary of the RNLI, we remember the achievements and commitment of all those who have been part of the RNLI family over the past two centuries; we celebrate the world-class lifesaving service we provide today, based on our 200 years of learning, expertise and innovation, and we hope to inspire future generations of lifesavers and supporters who will take the RNLI into its next century and beyond.

“We are immensely grateful to everyone who is involved with the charity here in Northern Ireland – our volunteers, supporters and staff. This is our watch and it is our role to keep our charity safe and secure so it can continue to save lives into the future, as we strive in our vision to save every one.”