Belfast Telegraph

RNLI hails ex-pat who donated £59k just days before he died

Donaghadee RNLI celebrate the donation made by the late John Bradley and his wife
Donaghadee RNLI celebrate the donation made by the late John Bradley and his wife
The late John Bradley

By Chelsie Kealey

Staff at two Co Down RNLI lifeboat stations have paid tribute to an ex-pat who died within days of donating $74,000 (£59,000) to ensure both crews can continue their life-saving work.

The late John Bradley was born in north London but grew up in Tyrone, where he lived until he met his American wife, Sally Sue, and moved to the United States.

He passed away on Monday at the age of 81.

Before his death, the couple, who lived in LaGrange, Georgia, contacted Bangor and Donaghadee lifeboat stations to make the generous donation, which will be split evenly between both crews.

At the time Mr Bradley told staff that he felt compelled to help the lifeboat stations because, unlike in the States where the coastguard is funded by the government, the RNLI operates as a charity.

Mr Bradley had strong links to Northern Ireland. He worked as a dairy farmer and helped rebuild his family farm, which had been passed down generations since the late 1800s.

He met his future wife initially as a pen pal over a shared interest in genealogy and they had their wedding in Northern Ireland before moving across the Atlantic.

The donation is the third the pair have made to the RNLI. They made a $5,000 (£4,000) donation to a crew stationed at Waterloo Bridge in east London, and last summer the couple visited Tower Lifeboat Station in north London while on holiday and were so impressed by the work there they also donated $5,000.

The money will go towards vital volunteer crew kit and essential training for members.

Peter Irwin, Donaghadee RNLI Lifeboat operations manager, said yesterday that every one had been "overwhelmed" by the Bradleys' altruism.

"What a lovely story this is, albeit a poignant one now at John's recent death," he said.

"To think a couple who met as pen pals, married here, then moved to America but continued to share a passion for the RNLI and the charity's work, would think of us in this way and so generously, is incredible."

Mr Irwin continued: "We are so grateful and would like to sincerely thank Sally Sue and John, and remember John for his amazing support of the RNLI.

"We are saddened to hear of John's death and extend our sympathies to Sally Sue and the Bradley family."

Kevin Byers, Bangor RNLI Lifeboat operations manager, also paid tribute describing the donation as a fitting legacy.

"We took this picture of some of the Bangor and Donaghadee volunteers before we heard about John's passing to thank the couple for their generosity and to wish them a happy Fourth of July," he revealed. "We send our deepest and most sincere condolences to Sally Sue on her loss. What an incredible legacy John has left."

Since its foundation in 1824, the RNLI has saved over 142,200 lives and operates 46 lifeboat stations in Ireland.

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