Meet Bill, 80, a Foyle Search and Rescue volunteer

Foyle Search and Rescue volunteer Bill McElhinney pictured at his home in Prehen Park Derry on Wednesday afternoon. DER1716GS015

Foyle Search and Rescue volunteer Bill McElhinney pictured at his home in Prehen Park Derry on Wednesday afternoon. DER1716GS015

In a city where Foyle Search and Rescue is considered the fourth emergency service, the work carried out by the charity is never underestimated.

And so much of that work is carried out by a dedicated band of volunteers.

Bill McElhinney is living proof that age is no barrier to becoming a volunteer.

At 80, Bill is a pivotal part of the team of people who are regularly responsible for saving lives.

He joined the organisation back in 2008.

During his career, he represented popular electircal brand, Hitachi, as an agent. For decades Bill travelled extensively in the UK, Europe and Asia with his work.

Often away from home for long stints, retirement came as a culture shock.

While he was enjoying spending time with his wife Beth, his children and grandhildren, the Prehen grandad felt he wanted to give something back to his community.

“I heard Stephen Twells, the Foyle Search and Rescue Chairman, giving a talk and the work appealed to me.

“I thought it was something I’d be interested in finding out more about.”

Like all of the charity’s volunteers, Bill was put through a rigorous and thorough application process and was delighted when he was told he had been accepted as part of the team.

“I was so grateful to have been chosen,” said Bill.

“They are a great team of people and there’s great job satisfaction.

“At my age, you like to think you can do something to help the community. That was always important to me. The work that Foyle Search and Rescue do is so, so important.

“It’s awful when there are tragedies and Derry has seen too many of those, but there are also the times when we have happy endings and when you know lives have been saved.”

Bill works a shift with the Foyle Search and Rescue team every Friday.

He is mainly stationed at the base at Prehen where he oversees radio control, regularly dealing with the other emergency services.

“I’ve learned a number of new skills as part of my training as well,” explains the octogen.

“There are important things to learn like health and safety and child protection.”

Bill, a former President and Captain at City of Derry Golf Club, says he understands how some people find it a challenge to fill their time during retirement.

He believes applying to help local organisations is a good way to start.

“The team I work with at Foyle Search and Rescue are brilliant and I get so much from doing that one day a week.

“They deserve every bit of support they get from the local community,” he concluded..