The members of the North West Mountain Rescue Team Celebrating 35 years of Service to the community.
It was back in 1980, when the North West Mountain Rescue Service had been in operation for just a year, that the organisation qualified to change its status to become a fully-fledged team.
The team is organised into three sections, based on the geographical areas of Northern Ireland. The west section is based in Fermanagh, the Centre Section based in the Sperrin Mountains/Magherafelt section and the East Section, which is based in Ballymena.
To help them carry out their vital work, the team has three 110 Defender Landrovers and the newest edition to the fleet is a four-wheel-drive Volkswagon conversion, which can also be used as a mobile incident control unit.
In 2014 the team had 45 call outs and attended 34 community events, which are viewed as valuable opportunities to educate the public on mountain safety, as well as being an opportunity to demonstrate the team’s capabilities.
The team trains for evenings and one weekend each month and have forged valuable working relationships with the PSNI Search and Rescue Team, Foyle Search and Rescue, the Helicopter Rescue Team from Royal Navy and the Irish Coastguard.
A key member of the North West team throughout this time is Londonderry man Uel Hamilton, who got into outdoor activities in his youth through the Scouting Association. One thing led to another and soon he was hill walking, climbing and abseiling and started adding coveted badges to his belt - starting with the Climbing Badge Award.
On December 17, 1980 Uel was invited to become a member of the North West Mountain Rescue Unit alongside Joe Rotherham from the Western Education and Library Board, and a year later, as already alluded to, the group evolved into a fully-fledged team.
“At that time I became a treasurer for the team. A post I held for 12 years,” said Uel.
“In 1992 I was appointed as team leader of the North West Mountain Rescue Team, a post I held for several years, in addition to being the equipment officer.
“I found my continued service to the North West Mountain Rescue Team a rewarding one. Whether a person needs help or is missing on a mountain, or in a local area, we have built and maintained a strong team to help them to safety and bring comfort to their families.
“This year the NWMR team has reached 35 years of service in the north west and I am proud that I have seen teh team evolve over the years, while still participating as the President of the team.
“I would like to thank all the members of the NWMRT, both past and present, for their commitment and hard work in building a strong team to service the community,” he said.
There are 10 mountain rescue Teams in Ireland.
In an emergency dial 999, or 112, and ask for the Police, then ask for Mountain Rescue.