Mourners gathered in Newcastle, Co Down this morning for the funeral of long-serving lifeboat volunteer and RNLI employee Francie Morgan.
Mr Morgan, 65, passed away suddenly on Monday while out walking his dog near his home.
A former station coxswain with Newcastle RNLI – a role he performed for 26 years – and an RNLI staff coxswain, he was awarded the MBE in 2010 for voluntary service to the RNLI.
Having started with the RNLI as a shore helper in 1969, he went on to become one of the youngest coxswains at the age of just 33.
Crew records only date back to 1994, but they show that in the past 25 years he launched the lifeboat on 201 occasions, assisting more than 170 people and saving many lives.
As an RNLI fleet staff coxswain since 2013, he worked in a number of lifeboat stations around the UK and Ireland and was a popular and respected member of staff.
A spokesperson for the RNLI said Mr Morgan had “tirelessly dedicated himself to saving lives at sea.”
Senior fleet staff coxswain Martin Phillips said: “It’s been a privilege and a pleasure to have worked with Francie over the last 10 years. Whether it be on passage or during relief duties, Francie had an incredibly calm manner and willingness to lead.
“The way he supported and shared his extensive knowledge with others will never be forgotten. He was universally liked and truly respected by crew at stations far and wide. He guided so many and had so much more to offer.”
New area lifesaving manager, former senior fleet staff coxswain and close friend Phill Corsi added: “Francie was such a loyal ambassador for the RNLI – it was so close to his heart. His dedication, commitment and work ethic has been second to none.
“His sense of humour, laughter and charismatic smile was so infectious. I feel so privileged to have worked alongside him and I absorbed so much from his words of wisdom. He truly was one of life’s greatest gentlemen.”
The RNLI said those who knew Mr Morgan were “familiar with his gentlemanly character with many a funny story.”
“He will be deeply missed by the Fleet Operations Team and wider RNLI staff and volunteers. Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this sad time,” the spokesperson added.
Former RNLI colleagues from around the UK and Ireland have paid tribute to Mr Morgan, saying he will be “sadly missed” by all who knew him.
Hundreds of people, including many RNLI representatives, attended his funeral mass in The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption.
Mr Morgan, who was laid to rest in St Mary’s Old Cemetery, is survived by his wife Jennie and children Kate, Michael and David.