ISLAND LIFE John O’Toole and his wife Mary at home on Inisturk Island.
Inishturk man John O’Toole is looking forward to his 89th Christmas at home with his wife, Mary, and his children and grandchildren. However, he and his family will not be taking his presence for granted, since John spent several weeks in hospital during the summer.
Achill Island RNLI medically evacuated the islander in June after he became seriously unwell. As thanks to the lifeboat crew that came to his aid, John and his family are supporting the RNLI’s Christmas appeal.
John spent almost two months being treated for his illness in Mayo University Hospital before recuperating in a nursing home. He was finally becoming well enough to return home in August, again courtesy of Achill Island RNLI.
Speaking about her father’s dramatic recovery, John’s daughter Annie Maher said: “On that day in June when Dad took ill, the Achill Island Lifeboat was called to transfer Dad from home to the mainland to get medical attention at Mayo University Hospital. Without the quick response of the lifeboat on that day, it may have been a very different outcome.’
Supporting the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal comes easy to the O’Toole family, who have been long-standing supporters of the charity that saves lives at sea.
Having John at home brings back fond memories of Christmases in the past, and that unique relationship that exits between the islanders and the RNLI.
Annie recounts stories of how the young children on Inishturk would donate all the money they gathered on their traditional Wren Boys collection on Wren Day to the RNLI, which they affectionally refer to as ‘the lifeboat’.
She said that the islanders were always assured that even in really bad weather conditions, ‘the lifeboat’ would always come to their aid. “What a wonderful service it is to all still living on the islands around Ireland,” she said.
Annie also spoke about the RNLI collection box, which was always on the counter in the local pub, and the islanders happily popped their change into it.
“Dad has made a remarkable recovery following his return home. He enjoys daily short walks with mum and the dogs, while keeping an eye on the sheep. He is looking forward to spending time with family and friends and maybe having a little glass or two of rum.”
Annie added: “Dad, Mum and all of us understand the commitment and dedication of the Achill lifeboat crew and all involved with the lifeboat. We wish them all a very merry Christmas and safe new year. May God watch over them all while at sea.”
Callouts like the one that came to John’s aid would not be possible without donations from the RNLI’s generous supporters. This money helps to fund the essential kit, training and equipment needed by lifeboat crews all year round.
Despite the disruption caused by the pandemic, lifeboat crews have remained on call, available to launch at any hour, day or night, to help those in trouble at sea.
To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal, visit RNLI.org/Xmas.