Thursday 8 December 2016

Country's youngest priest joins the RNLI

Greg Harkin

Published 16/11/2016 | 12:59

Arramore Lifeboat crew Photo: Aranmore Lifeboat
Arramore Lifeboat crew Photo: Aranmore Lifeboat

One of the country’s youngest priests has become the latest recruit to the RNLI.

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Fr Liam Boyle (28) has already completed four emergency missions aboard the Arranmore Island Lifeboat.

RNLI recruits Fr Liam Boyle, Jimmy Early and Martin Proctor Photo: Aranmore Lifeboat
RNLI recruits Fr Liam Boyle, Jimmy Early and Martin Proctor Photo: Aranmore Lifeboat

And he says nothing prepared him for the adrenalin rush which kicks in every time his beeper goes off.

“The nearest I’d ever been to a boat was in a tub on a lake fishing,” said Fr Liam who was ordained last year and is curate on the Donegal island.

But all that changed when the lifeboat was docked on the island’s pier a couple of months ago.

“It’s normally at the lifeboat station so I just went over for a look and the crew asked me if I wanted to look around and I did, after almost falling over trying to get on board,” said the priest originally from Donegal’s Fanad peninsula.

“I joked that I might join some day and the lads said I should think about it; and a few weeks later I thought it would be good to be able to help out when I could.”

After initial training and taking part in a number of RNLI exercises, he discovered he had the ‘sea legs’ to be part of the life-saving charity crew.

Tutor Nick Darlison and Fr Liam Boyle Photo: Aranmore Lifeboat
Tutor Nick Darlison and Fr Liam Boyle Photo: Aranmore Lifeboat

“I’ve been on four call-outs and I wasn’t sure how I would take to the sea but I think it’s all psychological. On the first call I just kept saying to myself  over and over again ‘I’m not going to be sick, I’m not going to be sick’ and so far I’ve more than managed.

“We had a call last month to a Canadian couple stranded off the coast at 4.15 in the morning. We didn’t get back until 10am but it was a successful mission and there is an enormous adrenalin rush when it happens.”

The 550 people on the island really appreciate the local priest’s new role in the 21-person RNLI crew.

“Fr Liam is our first ever priest on the crew,” said Arranmore RNLI spokeswoman Nora Flanagan.

“He may never have been to sea before but nowadays only around 10 per cent of volunteers come from an original maritime background.

“Fr Liam who had no previous seafaring experience prior to his RNLI training, said the nearest he ever got to operating a boat was on the pond in Dunlewey lake in a little tub.

“His first call out was to a boat in difficulty at Loughross Point where nerves and any potential seasickness were soon put to one side when the lifeboat approached the casualty vessel and Fr Liam played his role as a crew member in the rescue.”

The priest is now hoping to upskill even further.

“I’m hoping next year I can go to the RNLI College in Poole, Dorset, for further training,” he added.

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