Honoured and humbled was the reaction of Portrush man Robin Cardwell as he capped a remarkable year by being awarded the MBE in the Queen’s Birthday list.
Robin, one of a number of award recipients from the Causeway area, recently retired after 27 years service to the RNLI and turned 70 years of age.
Robin, who moved from Coleraine to Portrush, was approached in 1990 to see if he would be interested in becoming a volunteer with the Portrush lifeboat and he subsequently got his career with the lifeboat underway as a crewman.
He was also an emergency mechanic for a few years before becoming the deputy head coxswain and then coxswain.
Having to retire from the role of coxswains at the age of 55, Robin was then appointed as the deputy launching authority for the lifeboat before taking on the role of the Operations Manager which involved the day to day running of the station.
Robin heard the news he was to receive an MBE for services to the RNLI and the community six weeks ago, however, he wasn’t unduly surprised as he explained: “I had half an idea something was happening. People were asking me for information so I knew something was going on.
“When I received the letter I had to keep it secret which was hard, although I did tell a few close family members.
“I am honoured and humbled to receive this award. I accept this MBE on behalf of Portrush Lifeboat Station and all the volunteers that are and have been connected with the work they do saving lives at sea.
The operations and fundraising team and off course the volunteer crew are vital to this role on the north coast and I have been very privileged to have been both crew and Lifeboat Operations Manager, working with a fine bunch of men and women. This award is dedicated to you all.”
After 27 years there is one rescue that stands out for Robin and that is the first one he made.
“I have seen many things in the years I have been involved with the RNLI,” added Robin. “My first shout still stands out for me though.
“The previous coxswain had retired at midnight on the Friday and on Saturday afternoon it was blowing fairly hard out of the north west.
“We got a call to say there was a boat in difficulty near the Giant’s Causeway and when we got there we found two adults and two children. It was a fairly rough day, they had lost the engine and were drifting into the rocks. They had an anchor rope of only 10 feet which was useless and only had two lifejackets which they had on the children.
“Where they were drifting, about half a mile east of the Causeway, was a sheer cliff face and they were going to be smashed up on the rocks.
“We managed to get a rope onto the boat which was rotten and pulled it out to deeper water and towed it back to Portrush.
“To me that was my best rescue because if we had been five minutes later I have no doubt that they would have drowned.”
Robin’s successor as Operations Manager Keith Gilmore offered his congratulations saying: “On behalf of the management and crew at Portrush Lifeboat Station I would like to convey to
Robin our hearty congratulations on his being awarded the honour of an MBE.
“Robin, through his dedication to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, has made an invaluable contribution to the cause of saving lives at sea around the north coast of Ireland. He has been a crew member, assistant mechanic, and then coxswain of the Lifeboat. On retirement from the Lifeboat crew he went on to be Deputy Launching Authority and then Lifeboat Operations Manager (LOM).
“In the posts of Coxswain, and subsequently LOM, Robin showed integrity and clear leadership whilst always managing to achieve this with great good humour.
“In Portrush we are very proud of Robin’s record of service and very pleased that he has received the recognition that he has never sought but has richly deserved.”