A “Guardian angel” from Northern Ireland who saved a toddler from drowning has received Australia’s first bravery award presented on Irish soil.
Maeve McLoughlin (26) was honoured at a ceremony in Dublin for bravely battling a raging creek in the Aussie outback to save two-year-old Bridie Woolcock's life.
On Friday, Ambassador Bruce Davis, on behalf of the Governor General of Australia, presented Ms McLoughlin with a Commendation for Brave Conduct, at a ceremony at his residence in Killiney.
The personal trainer from Co Down runs Precore Fitness in Belfast city centre, but in September 2010 had been working as a nanny at Richard and Jenny Woolcock's 30,000-acre cattle station in Springsure, Queensland, when little Bridie, now four, nearly died.
Heavy rainfall had caused the creek by the Woolcock's home to swell to five feet of fast-flowing floodwater.
A nightmare unfolded when Bridie fell in and was swept along by the current for over half a mile.
Her adrenalin kicked in and the courageous Carryduff woman ran barefoot along the side of the creek, climbing through barbed wire fences to get to Bridie. She plunged into the waters, grabbed the little girl and performed mouth to mouth resuscitation on the youngster. Maeve then carried Bridie, unconscious but breathing, to safety before she was airlifted to hospital.
“It was the longest five minutes of my life,” Maeve said. “I am just glad I was able to get to Bridie in time and she is doing well.
“The award ceremony in Dublin was amazing. I feel so honoured.”
Richard and Jenny Woolcock sent a heartfelt message for their daughter's “guardian angel”. It said: “Congratulations to our dearest Maeve on being presented this award for your bravery. Without your courageous efforts we would not have our little Bridie here today. You will always have our sincerest love and blessings.”
Australian Bravery Decorations date from the establishment of the nation’s honours system in February 1975. A council of 14 members including representatives of each state and four community members, decide who will receive an award. The Commendation for Brave Conduct Maeve received is a silver gilt sprig of mimosa mounted on a red ribbon.