It’s not so long ago that Jill Hamilton was helping to save countless trafficked migrants from drowning in the Mediterranean Sea.
But now the naval service’s longest-serving petty officer is pursuing a career as a model.
Jill was flown to Cyprus recently for a photoshoot at the luxurious five-star Athena Beach Hotel in Paphos and as a result has become the face of Sunway Holiday’s summer travel guide and Cocoa Brown Tan.
Tanya Airey of Sunway Holidays said they picked Jill for a number of reasons, including her looks, intelligence, curvy figure, and because she is a very interesting person.
“I think she has a good future in modelling because there is a dearth in curvier models, particularly in Ireland,” said Ms Airey.
Jill, a 40-year-old mother of one, who lives in Cobh, Co Cork, had entered a contest involving the two companies and the hotel.
She was told she made the final three and then that she was the winner.
“I honestly thought I was being wound up,” she said. “To be selected out of what I would view as gorgeous- looking girls with perfect figures for this shoot proves that society is slowly changing for the better and it’s a breath of fresh air, to be honest. I hope other brands follow suit.
I went to do the photoshoot in Cyprus and being the centre of attention was weird for me.
She recently left the naval service after serving for more than 22 years. To her, the service was very much a family affair.
Her father, Tom, retired as a chief petty officer in 2006. Both of her brothers, Alan and Martin, are currently serving as chief petty officers. Alan works in the diving section and Martin is serving on LÉ James Joyce.
During 2016, Jill served with the LÉ Róisín in the Mediterranean Sea. She and the crew rescued more than 2,000 migrants during her three-month tour of operations there. She returned to migrant rescue duties again last year on LÉ James Joyce.
While on the missions she worked in the communications section, but when there were rescues “it was really all hands on deck”.
She described how they often came across deathtrap inflatable dinghies with 130 people packed like sardines onboard.
“It was my job to search the women and children who were the first to be rescued and make sure they were given protein bars and water. There were a couple of fatalities on the first tour, which is very sad,” said Jill.
It was a really rewarding mission. Many of those who came on board had very little clothes and many didn’t even have a pair of shoes.
Jill also completed two tours in the Lebanon with the UN, in 2013 and 2016.
While Jill said she’d see how her modelling career progresses, she’s already qualified as a beautician.
“Currently I’m doing add-on courses for that and I’m doing a diploma in digital marketing and social media management for businesses with Pitman Training near Cork Airport,” said Jill.