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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Red Bay RNLI crew member carrying a pager and on-call for the first time this Christmas

Red Bay RNLI crew member Hazel Imrie from Cushendall.

A Glasgow native who moved to Cushendall three and a half years ago and has since joined the lifeboat crew at Red Bay RNLI, is preparing to drop everything this Christmas if her pager sounds and there is an emergency at sea.

As the charity launches its Christmas appeal, Hazel Imrie who runs a hardware store in the town is urging people across County Antrim – home to stations at Red Bay, Portrush and Larne - to help her fellow crew and the thousands of other volunteer crews carrying pagers over the festivities, to continue their lifesaving work.

“I joined the crew at Red Bay in February 2020 just before Covid hit,” Hazel explains, “so unfortunately with the pandemic and restrictions, my training was disjointed, and it wasn’t until this year that I could focus on completing my assessments.

“I have always had an interest in the work of the RNLI and I knew when I moved here with my partner who is from Cushendall, that I wanted to get involved because I could see how integral the service is to a coastal community. I wanted to give something back to the community that I was living in.”

With no prior maritime, sailing or boating experience, Hazel fully immersed herself into the rigorous training involved in becoming a crew member.

“I have valued the support of an experienced team and I have learned so much from others. Everyone has been so welcoming, and the training has been hands-on, practical and a really enjoyable experience.”

Now as Hazel prepares for her pager to sound, she says there is a mixture of emotions involved ahead of her first call out:

“I am excited but there is also anticipation and concern because you are going into the unknown, but I am also reassured because I know when that call does come, everyone else who turns up is experienced and will support me.”

Like Hazel, thousands of volunteer crew members around Ireland and the UK, sign up to save everyone from drowning – it has been the charity’s mission since 1824.

This Christmas many will leave their loved ones behind to answer the call, each time hoping to reunite another family, and see those in trouble on the water safely returned.

Over the past decade, RNLI lifeboats have launched over 1,200 times during the festive period. But these rescues would not be possible without donations from the RNLI’s generous supporters, helping to fund the essential kit, training and equipment needed by lifeboat crews all year round.

Hazel says:

“This is my first Christmas on call and I know even over the festive period, our lifesavers are ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and rush to the aid of someone in trouble on the water. At this time of year, the weather can be at its worst and lives can be on the line.

“We know that every time our crews go out they hope for a good outcome, but sadly this sometimes isn’t the case. We hope that this year’s Christmas appeal will show people just how tough it can be, but also that with their help we can get so much closer to our goal of saving everyone.”

To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal visit:


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