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Portrush RNLI say goodbye to their Coxswain

Posted on July 13, 2012 at 4:40 PM

Portrush RNLI with retiring Coxswain Willie McAuley. Photo : RNLI/Portrush

Author: Judy Nelson, Portrush RNLI volunteer lifeboat press officer

Portrush Lifeboat crew, fundraisers and crews from flanking stations turned out to Portrush Yacht Club on Thursday 5th July to say goodbye to the first Coxswain ‘Big’ Willie McAuley.

Willie has been on crew for 27 years and is the embodiment of a good volunteer crew member within the RNLI.


Willie joined the crew on 13th Feb 1985 and in 1986 became emergency mechanic a post he held until 1993. In this year he became 2nd Cox and eventually in 2002 became Coxswain. Willie has been on many shouts from Portrush, but one of the most notable is the famous one that has been immortalised by Ian Watson’s picture of the Lifeboat heading out in a stormy February night. The boat set out on 13th Feb. 1989 at1600hrs to reports of a Spanish fishing vessel aground Swilly. The boat couldn’t get back to Harbour on that night, but that’s what being an RNLI volunteer is all about, to go out to save lives without much thought to your own and that’s what Willie did on countless occasions. Willie was also involved in saving the life of a German diver, as well as those of two schoolboys stranded in a cave a downhill three years ago. He has also been called on occasions to rescue the Lifeboat Operations Manager!



Twenty-seven years is a lifetime, in any sense of the word and especially to some of our new crew members who haven’t even reached that age and it was good to see so many of the young crew turning out pay respect to an experienced station member and mentor to many crew who have come up through the ranks. Not only a mentor but a good friend to all crew, operations team and fundraisers.


As Robin Cardwell Lifeboat Operations Manager said in his speech ‘Willie is a man of few words but when he does say something it is worth listening to’.


Willie’s partner Sara, proud mother Peggy, brother, Paul, sister in law, daughter Lorna were all present to hear the tributes paid by many to ‘The Big Man’. Representatives from Larne, Lough Swilly and Red Bay Lifeboat Stations paid tribute and the speeches concluded with James Heaney Chair of the Lifeboat Management group paying his on tribute and Des Austin new Coxswain, speaking on behalf of the crew.


Willie will certainly be missed but he himself concluded the evening by thanking everyone for their friendship and congratulating Des on his promotion.

Categories: RNLI News