For the past 125 years, selfless men and women have boarded the Dunmore East lifeboat to assist, rescue and recover those in trouble at sea.
Their bravery in the sometimes turbulent waters of Waterford Harbour and its extremities is beyond question: some 16 medals recognising heroism have been awarded to crewmen throughout its distinguished history.
In addition to those who man the boats at Dunmore East, a small group of dedicated men and women busy themselves annually with a host of fundraising ventures to support the Lifeboat’s invaluable service. Kathleen Power is among them.
On May 23rd at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, Kathleen received a silver badge in recognition of her 13 years of voluntary work in aid of the Dunmore East Lifeboat.
“From what I’m told, they’re hard to get,” according to Kathleen. “And I certainly wasn’t expecting it, but I have to say I was delighted to receive the badge.”
Kathleen’s fellow Dunmore-based fundraisers, Pat Caulfield and Susan O’Donoghue, also received silver badges, while colleague Laura Shaw received a scroll saluting her contribution to the local RNLI cause.
“People’s kindness and generosity is wonderful,” said Kathleen, reflecting on the consistent public support which the RNLI receives in Dunmore and its environs.
Be it quizzes, coffee mornings or the pending barbeque at the Spinnaker Bar in July, Kathleen and her fellow fundraisers put a firm shoulder to the wheel year in, year out.
“We’re just getting back into it now,” said Kathleen about their fundraising efforts. “From now until Christmas, it’s pretty much non-stop, but it’s something that we’re all very interested in and committed to.”
The 16-strong group of volunteers raised over €50,000 during 2008 alone, a tremendous total and a firm reflection of the esteem in which the Lifeboat is held locally.
“We’ve got a very dedicated group of fundraisers,” added Kathleen, who said that the goodwill of many in Dunmore East and its environs is never lacking when it comes to support, be it financial or otherwise.
Kathleen became involved with the committee due to the saddest of personal circumstances. On February 4th 1996, her son Niall (21), along with fellow crewmen Edward Peter Nolan (39) and Conor Patrick O’Grady (25), were lost at sea when their trawler, the Jenalisa, sank off the Waterford coast.
To compound the tragedy, neither Niall nor Peter’s remains were ever recovered, a pain shared by the families of those lost aboard the Pere Charles and the Honey Dew II in January 2007.
“The kindness and goodness of the people in Dunmore East at the time is hard to describe,” said Kathleen. “People really rallied around us and were just so good to us. They were wonderful.”
The level of warmth prompted Kathleen to become an active RNLI advocate, an organisation that Kathleen’s family has a long and proud association with.
This juncture in the conversation prompted a reference to the families of Aisling Butler, Eithne Walls and Jane Deasy, the three Irish doctors lost on Air France Flight 447.
“We know what they’re going through,” said Kathleen, with no further elaboration required on her behalf.
The relevance of the Dunmore East Lifeboat is something which was made plain to Kathleen Power through the most trying of episodes.
The sacrifice she has made in terms of time and effort these past 13 years, along with that of her colleagues, honours those who brave the most testing of conditions during sea-bound emergencies.
It also honours all who have been saved as well as those souls forever lost to the waves.
“I can’t tell you enough how important it is for us to have the lifeboat in Dunmore East,” she stated. “Like other coastal areas, it’s vital that we retain it and thanks to the generosity of the public, the lifeboat will always be there, I imagine.”
And thanks to Kathleen Power, her fellow fundraisers and the outstanding crew of the Dunmore East Lifeboat, it’s incumbent that the public continues to honour their wonderful commitment. It is the very least that they deserve.