RNLI Lough Swilly buoyed by Inishowen musicians

'Shores of the Swilly' on the crest of fundraising wave

RNLI Lough Swilly buoyed by Inishowen musicians

Team Shores of the Swilly in musical fundraiser for RNLI Lough Swilly

From Left:Mick McGrath, John McCarter, Louise Doherty, Seamus McDaid, Maria Fitzpatrick and Gary Raymond.

An online musical fundraiser for RNLI Lough Swilly has raised almost half its hoped-for target in less than a week.

Launched on RNLI Lough Swilly's Facebook page at the weekend, with the blessing of it's composer, Phil Coulter, 'Shores of the Swilly' featured many of Inishowen's most talented musicians.

Speaking to Donegal Live, a delighted John McCarter, the Lifeboat Operations Manager of RNLI Lough Swilly, said 'Shores of the Swilly' was a welcome addition to organisation's 2020 fundraising, which was down approximately two thirds, due to Covid-19.

John said: “The thing about the RNLI is that it receives no government funding. It has no major funders behind it. RNLI Lough Swilly only exists because of the generosity of the general public, people who donate. It is a totally voluntary charity and the vast majority of the people who go to sea, who are trained up as crew, who operate all the stations, are volunteers, who generously give their time and commitment to helping others at sea.

“The beauty of the 'Shores of the Swilly' fundraiser is that in this particular year, with all of the Covid-19 restrictions, our fundraising effort in and around Inishowen has inevitably dissipated because lots of people cannot get out to do fundraising.

“Inishowen is normally one of the strongest fundraising areas in the country, which in many ways does not stack up with the amount of disposable income that is available in the peninsula. There is a huge commitment to the RNLI here.

“When Louise Doherty and Maria Fitzpatrick got together to record Phil Coulter's lovely song, 'Shores of the Swilly', written in honour of his sister Cyd who lost her life in Lough Swilly, it was amazing. Phil was supportive and gave us his blessing. Louise and Maria have made a lovely job of it. It is a perfect way for people to get behind RNLI Lough Swilly. We have added a GoFundMe link on the RNLI Lough Swilly Facebook page, where people can listed to the song and leave a small or large donation, specifically for RNLI Lough Swilly,” said John.

The Lough Swilly RNLI has been in operation since 1986 or 1987. It was founded out of a tragedy which was the loss of Phil Coulter's brother, Brian, a windsurfer on a November day in 1984.

According to John, that tragedy brought it home to the whole community, just how much a proper rescue service was needed in Lough Swilly and around these coasts.

He added: “It prompted people like Pat and Kate Heaney to knuckle down and motivate people and the RNLI in particular to come and start. And, of course, Phil Coulter being the centre of that tragedy and also being the musical celebrity that he is, was instrumental in spearheading the movement, running a concert to raise funds to help to bring a rescue service to Lough Swilly.

“Fair play to the RNLI, it took up the challenge and the first rescue service started in 1987 in the old Ned's Point boathouse. Ned's Point became the focal point where the the RNLI's smallest rescue craft, the D Class was based and local people were duly trained up. Pat Pat Heaney was the first Honorary Secretary for RNLI and helped very much to get it off the ground.

“From there, it it has grown in leaps and bounds and it has grown in numbers and in strength and the community around Inishowen has taken it very much to its heart. The whole Inishowen is coastal. There are a lot of people who derive pleasure and business income from the sea around and inevitably Lough Swilly RNLI has got involved in all those coastal communities, either rescuing or having to deal with tragic circumstances occur ans they have done over the years. That sense of community has got in behind Lough Swilly RNLI and supports it very, very strongly,” said John.

Penned by multi-award-winning songwriter and pianist, Phil Coulter, who tragically lost his sister, Cyd, and brother, Brian, in separate incidents in Lough Swilly, 'Shores of the Swilly' launched last weekend.

Speaking to Donegal Live, pianist Louise Doherty who co-organised the innovative musical fundraiser along with singer Maria Fitzpatrick, said: “Our beautiful ‘Lough Suile’ or ‘Lake of Shadows’ has been the scene of many significant historical moments in Irish history, and of many joyful moments. However, sadly it is also the scene of many heartbreaking tragedies.

“In the early stages of lockdown, Maria approached pianist me with the idea of recording one of her father’s favourite songs ‘Shores of the Swilly’ as a fundraiser for the Lough Swilly RNLI.

“The project quickly developed when we were joined by percussionist Gary Raymond, who recorded the song in his Gleneely studio, followed by Mick McGrath who contributed the haunting whistle playing to the track. It began to grow into a real community project.

“A local Buncrana man and friend of the group, John Cutliffe, who is now living in Myanmar in South East Asia, stepped in and offered to master the track,” said Louise.

According to Maria, Inish Media then came onboard and created the “stunning video” which accompanies the track.

Maria said: “Tank and Skinny’s restaurant provided socially distanced rehearsal space, the location for the video shoot, and endless coffee, and local tour company Reel Irish Music Tours contributed to the CD production.

“Local artist Gillian Burke volunteered and did the CD design work. Offers came thick and fast for transport, photographs, archived videos and the project came to life.

“To date, Lough Swilly RNLI have launched 675 times, rescued 775 people and saved 57 lives. We are privileged to have these brave men and women, who selflessly risk their lives in all weather and atrocious conditions, to save the lives of others,” said Maria.

The talented Buncrana women described 'Shores of the Swilly' as a haunting lament, which will strike a chord with all who have “loved and lost”.

Louise said: “Shores of the Swilly' is brilliant in its simplicity, and deeply personal to all involved, it holds many moments of happy childhood and tragic loss.”

Maria added: “Please support your local lifeboat, and follow the secure http://gofundme.com/shoresoftheswilly link on social media channels. Every single donation, large or small, will go directly to Lough Swilly RNLI, and help them continue their invaluable work on our seas.”

If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Donegal Live editorial team any time. To contact Donegal Democrat and Donegal People's Press, email editorial@donegaldemocrat.ie To contact Donegal Post, email editor@donegalpost.com To contact Inish Times, email editor@inishtimes.com.

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