Dion Murphy Kelly is on call to save lives this Christmas.

On call Christmas Day!

“If it goes off, I'll drop everything and go. There's no time to waste when it goes off.”

Dion Murphy Kelly will be keeping one eye on his pager at Christmas dinner this year. The 21 year old apprentice ESB technician became an official Castletownbere RNLI crew member last March.

Like hundreds of RNLI volunteers around Ireland, Dion must be ready to respond at a moment’s notice, and Christmas Day is no different. During the festive period from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day from 2017-2021, RNLI lifeboats in Ireland launched 55 times and brought 43 people to safety.

Dion says Christmas Day can be quite hectic in his household, with anything up to 20 people all around one big table, but that he will be ready to leap into action if and when he is called upon. “As far as I'm aware, we'll all be on call and whoever's the first 7 to get to the station will be the 7 that will go out.”

“If the pager goes, get into the car, get to the station, into the gear – we'll be briefed then on what our rescue mission is, and we'll head out and get there as quickly and as safely as possible.”

Dion, who is the first in his family to volunteer with the RNLI, says he was inspired by his family’s connection with the sea to which he has sadly lost a number of loved ones over the years.

He said: “We're heavily involved in the fishing industry in the town. I didn't go fishing myself, that's a debate for another day. I just wanted to help in any way I could and I suppose I just went for it and I haven't looked back since, I'm delighted I did it.

“The lads in the boat are great. The craic is good in the boat and there's a good crew of lads there, and we're all there to help each other and come home safely at the end of the day and bring people home safely.”

Having already been out on 2 missions, one of which he was called to during a friend’s 21st birthday party, Dion says there is no feeling like helping people in difficulty onto dry land but warned of the many risks involved in taking to the water at this time of year.

“There is nothing greater than bringing home people to dry land, getting them safe and dry. The yacht we went to the rescue of, they'd been at sea for 28 days and just to see their faces, there was a great sense of joy after that. That was my first callout,” said Dion.

He added: “If you're going in the water in this kind of weather, don't go alone, bring someone with you. If you are to go alone, let someone know that you are going and what time you expect to be back.

“Acclimatize yourself to the water before you get in, splash it on your hands, your arms, your face before you fully submerse yourself. Cold water shock is a big killer and it will take you by surprise. It will surprise even a strong swimmer

“If you are caught in a situation, the best thing you can do is just lie back and float, conserve your energy.”

The Castletownbere RNLI will celebrate 25 years of service on 7 January. The RNLI is independent of Government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal, visit rnli.org/Xmas.