JENNY Carway has served as a marine rescue volunteer in Kilkee for 18 years. Living on the Carrigaholt side of Kilkee, she is the longest-serving member of the Irish Coastguard Unit but that’s not all what that distinguishes Jenny from her colleagues.
Her accent is somewhat Irish but not completely. A simple question resulted in an intriguing response.
“I’m a blow-in. I’m originally from Somalia,” Jenny replied.
Her background is fascinating. “My grandparents were Irish. We lived in Uganda through Idi Amin’s time and we had to leave. My brothers were in boarding school in Ireland and my parents decided to give Ireland a go so we came here. We lived in Limerick and I’d come to Kilkee as a kid for summer holidays. So I just came down here and stayed here since. I came here diving. I enjoy it. It’s a great place to live,” she surmised.
Jenny left Africa when she was 11. She has yet to return to her north African roots for a visit but it is something she is keen to do.
“I’m an Irish national but I’d like to go home. I’d like to see it. My parents were born in Kenya. My grandparents were originally Irish. They were in forestry and they went over. Like I said we came back when Adi Amin was in power. I don’t remember Somalia but I remember Uganda. I have lots of memories of living over there. I haven’t been back to either,” Jenny confirmed.
Does she miss Africa? “I really do. One day I’ll get home,” she promised herself.
Far removed from Somalia and Uganda, Jenny has dedicated much of her life to search and rescue.
“I’ve been involved in the search and res,cue here for the last 18 odd years. I’m a diver so I would have been more into the recovery end of stuff. When the Coastguard came in and took over, I just transferred over. It has worked well for us. There’s a lot of extra training gone into us and it’s of benefit. We’ve got a few new lads that have come on and we’re bringing them up to speed. It’s made it a lot easier because the fundraising that had to go on to try and keep the service afloat was hard enough. So the transfer over to the Coastguard has made it a lot easier,” she said.
Of course, searching for missing people or recovering bodies takes its toll.
“You have your good times and your bad times but you’re here to provide a service and, hopefully, we have provided a good service here. Not always in the best of circumstances but if it’s a fatality it’s always a relief for the family to have the deceased brought back. You have to take comfort from that in that you have actually done something for someone else,” Jenny reflected.
There are times when volunteers can be involved in harrowing call-outs.
“The group is very close-knit and we do look after each other in that respect. We have had situations here where we’ve had fatalities and they have been people that we’ve known personally, which makes it a lot harder. But you’ve got the group of lads to come back to and talk things through. It’s not always the minute you come back on shore. It could be a week later. Something could just trigger it off.
“You just need to talk to someone and the lads are here for you if you need to talk,” Jenny said, before leaping into the rescue boat and speeding off into the wide ocean on a training exercise.