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Tuesday 6 December 2016

'I thought it was a wind-up' - Volunteer's wedding interrupted for RNLI sea rescue

Greg Harkin

Published 13/10/2016 | 02:30

RNLI volunteer Francy Burns and wife Helen put their wedding on hold when the lifeboat bleeper went off. Guests, who were also volunteers, rescued a stranded craft before the reception resumed. Photo: Jay Doherty Photography
RNLI volunteer Francy Burns and wife Helen put their wedding on hold when the lifeboat bleeper went off. Guests, who were also volunteers, rescued a stranded craft before the reception resumed. Photo: Jay Doherty Photography

AN RNLI volunteer thought his friends were winding him up when emergency pagers began to go off – as he was making his speech at his wedding.

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Francy Burns, a volunteer with the Buncrana lifeboat in Co Donegal, was just commenting on his beautiful bride Helen when 15 pagers among his wedding guests began to go off.

Buncrana RNLI volunteers Francy Burns and wife Helen. Photo: Jay Doherty Photography
Buncrana RNLI volunteers Francy Burns and wife Helen. Photo: Jay Doherty Photography

“I couldn’t believe it,” said 27-year-old Francy.

“There I was having just married the most amazing and beautiful woman and all this drama happens in the middle of it.

“Of course I didn’t have my own pager with me for a change.

“To be honest I thought it was a wind-up to begin with because let’s just say there are a couple of characters among the crew and that sort of thing wouldn’t be beyond them.

“We had actually put the RNLI guys at tables nearest the exits just in case something did happen but I never thought it would all kick off while I was making my speech.

"Fifteen pagers all went off within seconds of each other and when I saw crew members heading for the exits I knew then it was the real thing."

New bride Helen (29) said her husband was left speechless.

“It took him a while to compose himself; he certainly couldn’t speak for a minute or two as the drama unfolded,” said Helen.

“The boys had just eaten their starter and my main concern was that whatever the call-out was about that it would all end safely for the RNLI crew and for whoever they were going to help and thankfully it did.

“We made sure we kept the main course for them on their return.”

Francy and Helen were able to watch from the reception at the Inishowen Gateway Hotel overlooking Lough Swilly as the RNLI lifeboat was launched.

The crew went to the rescue of a boat which had been drifting for three hours off the Donegal coast after an engine failure on Saturday. No-one was hurt in the incident.

Francy said his new bride is used to call-outs – but they weren’t expecting one on their big day.

But he said he wanted to highlight the sacrifices made by volunteers and their relatives.

“We drop everything when we are needed and often our loved one are forgotten,” said Francy who runs Millfarm Hoofcare looking after cattle.

"I might be out on a job helping a farmer and I will just have to go; or out for a meal with Helen or friends and it's the same.

“When we’re away on a call they worry about us and those we are going to assist.

“I didn’t expect my wedding speech to be interrupted quite like that; it was the first time I’ve ever watched a launch while sitting down and not being involved.

“Everyone was back at the reception an hour or so later and we enjoyed the rest of the night and the most important thing was that everyone was safe.”

Irish Independent

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