Ireland and UK Mountain Rescue Weekend Conference, Dublin City University, Ireland

This weekend, commencing Friday evening 10th September, two team members journeyed to Dublin for the Bi Annual Ireland and UK Mountain Rescue Weekend Conference.

Whilst our Team Training Officer Elaine Gilliland took her car via the ferry, team member Diane Blakeley opted for air travel. (Guess which method was quicker!)

Attracting team members from the mountain rescue community in Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales and the Isle of Man, the conference attracted as usual a very wide range of guest speakers and subject matter, covering all aspects of modern mountain rescue, including the international scene.

A mountain rescue conference first – the delegates were energised first thing Saturday morning with a touch of Irish culture with traditional Irish dancing

There follows an account by Diane Blakeley of two of the conference sessions, which we hope will illustrate to our readers a flavour of the weekend.

Mike Park – Lessons from the Cockermouth Floods

The Team Leader of Cockermouth Mountain Rescue Team gave a very interesting, funny and emotional talk about the flooding in Cockermouth and the teams involvement over a five day period. Funnily enough only weeks before this the Cockermouth team had discussed whether they should buy a rescue boat!!

Mike explained how Cockermouth team initially became involved and how the incident developed to eventually included all Mountain Rescue Teams in the Lake District. Throughout the incident it was clear that the close working relationship between all the Lake District MR teams and the other emergency services was paramount to the successful evacuation of the Cockermouth residents. He recommended to all MR Teams that it was important that during such incidents MR should have a senior representative in “Gold” control, this does not have to be the local team leader, who may be better placed on the ground, but someone who fully understands MR capability and resources.

His talk included not only images, but also a video of an elderly resident being rescued from her house which was filmed by a web cam attached to a rescuers helmet. This video really brought home the height of the water along with the devastation and fear of the incident.

Throughout Mike was humorous and entertaining but it was clear that this in fact was a very emotional and hard five days for all the emergency services and residents, not least because of the loss of life of a Police Officer. He ended with a film, which led me to having a tears in my eyes and hoping that such disasters are not going to be as frequent as many weatherman are suggesting.

Team training officer Elaine Gilliland & Diane Blakeley with an air crew member of one of the Irish Air Corps latest helicopters which attended the conference

Elaine and Diane seeing if pilots the helmets fit their heads (notice they both needed different helmets so we’ll let you make your own mind up on whose is biggest!)

Vice Chairman, Mountain Rescue England & Wales Dr Anthony (Tony) Jones MBE – Reflection of 50 years on Mountain Rescue

I first met Tony 24 years ago at my first MR Conference. Somebody introduced me to him at the bar. He looked at me and then in his forthright manner he said; “There is only one place for women in Mountain Rescue, and that is not at all”. This was quite a shock to an 18 year old girl who had heard about the “important” Tony Jones. During the last 24 years I have since met Tony on numerous occasions including call-outs, conferences, team dinners and training exercises. Since our initial meeting we have become good friends. It was at this conference that I chose to remind him about our initial meeting. He was quite shocked and then laughed saying; “well I was right to say it because look how it motivated you to become such an asset to MR”.

His talk of course was as forthright as always, it started with images and stories about his time in MR in South Africa. His call outs included rescues on the famous Table Mountain. When he moved to the UK he found MR a little behind MR in South Africa. He went on to talk about lots of changes within MR including the use of radio’s, pagers and now text messaging that many teams are using to call-out their members.

Other changes included the type of searches and how MR now has a more important role in urban searching. He talked about line searching and how he now believed this should be rarely used unless it was to search for evidence, as we can use more efficient types of searching.

He chatted for a while about the Penley search, where in 1988 Bolton MRT and many other MRTs and other organisations searched for missing 15 year old school girl Anna Humphries. I personally spent 6 days working with Tony on this search and like him, it was a search that had a major impact on me. He explained the lessons that were learnt during this search which have since helped in numerous other searches over the last 20+ years.

As always it was an entertaining talk, which allowed many of us to reminisce over our many years in MR and the many changes we have seen over the years.

Diane Blakeley with Left, MREW Vice Chairman Tony Jones MBE and right MREW Assistant Secretary Peter Howells OBE, Diane is the young one in the middle