Three Wicklow RNLI lifeboat volunteers take on new lifesaving roles as the charity seeks support to save every one this Christmas

Wicklow RNLI have passed out three volunteer lifeboat crew into new lifesaving roles at the station, as this Christmas the charity remains on call to save lives at sea. Graham Fitzgerald is a new station coxswain, Paul Sillery is a new helm on the station’s inshore lifeboat and John Stapleton is a new mechanic on the All-Weather Shannon class lifeboat.

The three-volunteer lifeboat crew with Wicklow RNLI are helping the charity launch its Christmas appeal and are calling on the public to support the RNLI’s lifesaving work this Christmas, as they remain on call and ready to launch. With over 1,500 lifeboat volunteers in Ireland, each RNLI crew member signs up to save every one from drowning – the charity’s mission since 1824. This Christmas many will leave loved ones behind to answer the call, each time hoping to reunite another family, and see those in trouble at sea safely returned.

Graham Fitzgerald has been a volunteer lifeboat crewmember since 2009, becoming a Helm on the inshore lifeboat back in 2013. He has a strong family connection to the station, with his grandfather Billy Kilbride a former lifeboat volunteer. From a strong seafaring background and working in Dublin Port, the sea is in his veins, and he was involved in the rescue of two children who were blown out to sea on an inflatable earlier this year.

Commenting on the importance of the support of the public for the work of the charity Graham said, ‘I’m very proud to be involved with the RNLI. I like the challenge of going out on a rescue and not knowing what we may face, I’ve been on a few challenging ones and it’s so rewarding to bring people home safe, something that sadly not every family have experienced. As a Helm and now a Coxswain, I feel a huge responsibility to the crew and the station, thanks to the support of the public we have the kit and the equipment to ensure we can save lives at sea whenever and wherever we are needed.’

Paul Sillery (Helm) Graham Fitzgerald (Coxswain) and John Stapleton (Mechanic) at Wicklow RNLI

Paul Sillery joined the lifeboat crew back in 2009 and has recently passed out as a Helm on the station’s D class lifeboat. Paul has a strong lifeboating tradition in his family. His great uncle Parker Keogh was Coxswain, and his uncle David Sillery was a crew member. He is supporting the RNLI’s Christmas appeal as while the recent pandemic has meant fewer visitors to the station there has been no less a demand for the rescue service. 

Talking about why he volunteers with Wicklow RNLI Paul said, ‘I knew I was always going to join the lifeboat crew and the minute I turned 17 I was at the door of the station. People recognise the crew in the street as they see us going out to train and see us leaving for a shout. It’s so humbling to have that kind of community support behind us. I’ve been passed out as Helm this year and it’s been an incredible journey. It’s a very different mindset when you are in command of the lifeboat. You are monitoring everything and thinking of everyone’s safety.  Looking at the support we get locally and the interest from people in the work of the RNLI, I can see our future crew already around the town.’

John Stapleton has been recently passed out as a mechanic on the All-Weather lifeboat. Born and raised in Dublin, John moved to Wicklow eleven years ago.  Having a huge interest in mechanics, John ran a vehicle recovery business for years and has a passion for doing up vintage cars. With no family background in the RNLI, he was unsure how to go about joining the lifeboat crew, but he met one of the crew in the town and they suggested he join.  That was six years ago and since them John has moved job to Wicklow town and is a caretaker at the Dominican College, with special permission from Principal Lorraine Mynes to go out on a rescue if the pager goes off. Something he has had to do on several occasions.

He is proud to be a volunteer with the RNLI and to help launch the Christmas appeal locally to raise funds for the charity. John said, ‘I started my training for the mechanic role on the last Tyne lifeboat in the RNLI. I wanted to learn everything I could for the arrival of the new Shannon class lifeboat with its advanced technology and systems.  There is a role for everyone in the RNLI and if you have an interest in something you can develop it and train up.  We have navigators, launching authorities and shore crew, everyone does the role that suits them, and it all works together. The resources the RNLI puts into the training and the kit is incredible.’

‘We know that every time our crews go out, they hope for a good outcome, but sadly this sometimes isn’t the case. Through people supporting this year’s Christmas appeal, with their help we can get so much closer to our goal of saving every one.’

To donate to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal, visit: RNLI.org/Xmas

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