Not in Caitríona Lucas’s wildest dreams would she have imagined that she would have had such an effect on people.
That is according to the late coastguard’s husband, Bernard Lucas, who was speaking minutes before accepting a posthumous Clare Person of the Year Award on behalf of his wife.
Last September, the 41-year-old mother of two became the first coastguard volunteer to die in the line of duty during a search and recovery operation off the coast at Kilkee. There were three volunteers on board the Kilkee Coast Guard search and rescue boat when it capsized.
On Saturday, in front of a crowd of more than 300 people at the Clare Association annual dinner dance at the Falls Hotel in Ennistymon, Bernard accepted the 2016 Clare Person of the Year award for his wife.
He said: “We are very humbled by this. It is a very proud night for all of us. It is a great honour for all of us. Unfortunately, it is posthumously.
“It is a very happy night and while it is emotional, it is also a celebration of Caitríona. We are all one big family in the coastguard.
“Not in her wildest dreams would she have imagined that she would have had such an effect on people’s lives.”
Bernard said the family has received “a lot of support from friends and neighbours — without them, it would be very difficult”.
“I think Caitríona would be in awe of all the people coming,” he said. “She would be very honoured.”
Caitríona’s son, aircraft maintenance worker Ben and Leaving Cert student Emma, were also in attendance.
Ben said: “It is a great honour and a privilege that my mother is being awarded this honour.”
He admitted that the night “is bittersweet”. Looking at the crowds, he quipped “my mother was the most modest person ever — this wouldn’t fit with her at all. She liked to stay in the background.”
Officer in charge of the Doolin Coastguard unit, Mattie Shanon said the award was about celebrating “a great life and a great person who worked so well for the coastguard and for friends and the community”.
Last year, the Irish Coastguard recovered 42 bodies nationally and Mr Shannon said that the Doolin unit recovered 14 of those.
Mr Shannon confirmed the unit had 63 call outs last year making it the busiest year on record for the unit.
“We are a busy station,” he said.
Bernard continues to be an active member of the unit and said that he took only one week after Caitríona’s death “and I went straight back into it”.
He said: “It is what the two of us did. It is what we enjoyed. There are an awful lot of good memories and you do take comfort if you are able to help somebody else. It is nice to be able to continue that on and keep that going.”
He said Saturday night was good for the healing process after Caitríona’s death: “It is good to talk about her and celebrate her life and see the good side along with the tragedy that happened.”
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