Lifeboat heroes make splash

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A LIFEBOAT crew from Co Down has received the Royal seal of approval.

Portaferry has the only ‘Blue Peter’ lifeboat in either Northern Ireland or the Republic – presented by the popular BBC children’s programme – and has a proud record of bringing many distressed sea users safely to shore.

On Saturday, Her Majesty’s representative in Co Down, Lord-Lieutenant David Lindsay, presented the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal to the crew members and shore helpers at Portaferry’s RNLI station.

The award is in recognition of the valuable service provided by the volunteers and there were 12 proud recipients at the special presentation function.

Brian Bailie, lifeboat operations manager of Portaferry Lifeboat, said the awards were an “acknowledgement of the dedication of our volunteer lifeboat crew members and shore helpers to the saving of lives at sea”.

He said: “Weekly training is an essential part of their life-saving work and these awards recognise their commitment to spending many hours afloat or ashore on such exercises each year.

“It also serves as a recognition of the tremendous support given to our volunteers by their family, friends and employers.”

The operations manager said the awards were just one of many celebrating the life-saving work of volunteer RNLI lifeboat crews throughout the UK and Ireland.

“Since Portaferry Lifeboat Station was established in 1980, our volunteer lifeboat crew has saved many lives and brought a multitude of others to safety ashore,” he said.

To qualify for the award, each volunteer had to have served more than five years with the RNLI on February 6, 2012.

Mr Bailie, who has served 26 years at Portaferry, said the crew work tremendously well as a team and are “totally committed” to their life-saving role.

“The last call out we had was at half past 12 at night to a fishing vessel off the coast of Strangford Lough and the guys were out all night.

“They weren’t leaving the station to go home until five in the morning and some of them were then getting up and going to their work. That’s the commitment they show towards the RNLI and the Portaferry Lifeboat,” he said.

“The crews train 52 weeks of the year, rain or shine, and they’re always there to come in and help or go out on the boats to help save lives at sea.

“It takes huge commitment and dedication – not just from the crew but from their families because there are times when they have plans made to go shopping or on days out or whatever, but that can be turned on its head very quickly if a pager goes off, so the support of the families is extremely important,” Mr Bailie added.

The Diamond Jubilee Medal awardees from Portaferry Lifeboat are Brian Bailie, Shinead Breen, Jonathan Brownlee, Colin Conway, Graeme Ellison, Colin Hagan, Jackie Harrison, Leonard Lawson, John Murray, Marko Petric, Jeremy Rogers and Simon Rogers.

Those eligible for the award include members of the Armed Forces, the emergency services and prison service personnel among others.

Details of the new medal were announced in June 2011 by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt who said it was a “mark of thanks” for those dedicated to serving the community.

All police community support officers who were in service on February 6, 2012, and had completed five full calendar years of service, living holders of the Victoria Cross and George Cross, and members of the Royal Household are also eligible for the medal.

Further information about the work of Portaferry Lifeboat Station and ‘Blue Peter V’ can be found by visiting the station’s website at

The Portaferry vessel is an Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat.

Since 1958, four fundraising appeals by children through the BBC ‘Blue Peter’ television programme, have raised enough cash to fund 28 lifeboats around the UK.

‘Blue Peter V’ is the third such lifeboat to be presented to Portaferry by the TV programme since December 1986.