Honour for lifeboat founder

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The epitome of selflessness, Paddy Prunty has donated decades of his life to help save others and now is to be honoured by Queen Elizabeth.

Mr Prunty, a honorary member of Lough Neagh Rescue Service, is to receive a British Empire Medal (BEM) for his services to the organisation he helped to found.

Born and reared in Portadown, Paddy spent most of his life in Lurgan and started working with the legacy Craigavon Borough Council aged just 19.

Working as a watersports instructor he went on to manage the Waterside Hostel which was a residential activity centre hosting cross community events for young people. Indeed he is still is involved with what is now the Bushcraft Centre on a voluntary basis. He also teaches navigation to LNR lifeboat crews when requested.

However it was in 1989 when a dreadful tragedy resulted in the creation of Lough Neagh Rescue. David Gray Junior had been returning late on a daytrip from Kinnego Marina with three friends when their vessel ran out of fuel and sank. That night, three survivors were rescued by Paddy, who was Kinnego harbour master and Kinnego boat yard owner Billy Mullen, following a midnight phone call from the RUC in Lurgan, who had received a mobile phone call from the vessel. After the death of his only son, the late David Gray Snr formed Lough Neagh Rescue with Paddy and Billy - so other families might not suffer the same awful loss.

Paddy said: “It is a great honour for all our current and past lifeboat crews. David Gray who lost his son and purchased the first lifeboat for Lough Neagh led from the front. Billy Mullen, Finn Mullen, who were there that night, and myself just followed a great Portadown man. We have three fantastic lifeboat stations, supported by HM Coastguard (MCA) and all our SAR friends in the UK and Ireland. All funders helped but Craigavon Borough Council now Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council played a major role. The crew from all our lifeboat stations in Kinnego, Ardboe, and Antrim are the real heroes both past and present - too many to name.

“Their families know who they are and they all give their support in difficult times. They all are my family members, and special people. My late wife Siobhan deserves a special mention for all her help and support, as a past Ward Manager of the Stroke unit in Craigavon hospital.”