Respect the Water


The 2016 National RNLI Respect the Water campaign launched on Thursday 09 June and it will run through until September.  Look out for the publicity in your area.

Ross Macleod, the RNLI’s Community Safety Manager who heads up the ever expanding RTW team says, Respect the Water puts drowning prevention at the heart of everything (the RNLI) do.

Paraphrasing the campaign message, it is clear to see that there is an underlying need for people to take responsibility for their actions around water.  This applies equally to inland water as well as coastal regions.

The main RTW safety messages inform people about the highest risks:

“British and Irish waters are dangerously unpredictable.  The main risks that catch people out are:  

  • Unexpected entry – around half the people who drown slip, trip or fall into the water. They don’t expect to get wet.
  • Cold water shock – triggered in water temperatures lower than 15⁰C (the average temperature of UK waters is 12⁰C) it can steal the air from your lungs and leave you helpless in seconds.
  • Rip currents and waves – rip currents can travel up to the same speed as an Olympic swimmer (4.5mph) and can pull even the strongest swimmers out to sea. Unexpected waves can quickly knock people off their feet”.

Who knew that long after our three year campaign with Kingston Council for improved safety measures at the riverside where James died, that the RNLI would pick up on my involvement following publication of Into the Mourning light?  The domino effect is quite amazing.

You might think that a little while after James’ story had been told, the dust would figuratively settle and nothing else would ensue.  But this is not the case and the opportunities for me to carry on with involvement in drowning prevention, and to talk therapeutically about the grieving process from the perspective of a bereaved parent, continue.

I am proud to be associated with Ross, and the many other RNLI individuals whom I have met since 2014.  The RNLI facilitates the sharing of our story with many more people than would otherwise be the case and this is an amazing privilege for me.

Last week I went public with a capital P.  At very short notice, I was asked by Ross to appear on the Sunrise Sky TV News programme, hosted by Eamonn Holmes.  There was a short interview about my involvement with Respect the Water.  Eamonn Holmes showed great empathy and kindness towards me and I know that my appearance on the programme was appreciated.  I was asked to talk about what happened to James, our campaign with Kingston Council and my involvement with Respect the Water.

I was glad to talk about the pint beer glasses that are used in the Respect the Water campaign.  One of the most poignant and difficult things I have done was to encapsulate what happened to James in a few lines of text for the glasses used in the Thames region two years ago. The focus groups who analyse such things pronounced the personal story to be very effective and this is gratifying.  If, through sharing what happened to James, we can make people think about the consequences of their actions and take just a little more care,how great a legacy is that …



I am always touched by the empathy and kindness I am shown by media people and it makes it far easier to share such an emotive topic.

Sometimes there is a relief in being anonymous; that is to say that there are times when I do not wish to so obviously carry the label which all bereaved parents will recognise.  But the knowledge that so many people appreciate my efforts in whatever way, through reading my blog, or seeing my involvement with the RNLI and other organisations, goes some way towards normalising my experience.

I no longer feel guilty if I meet people and do not tell them about James straight away.  That is one great advantage of moving on in the grieving process.   This I do not consider as a sin of omission, rather it is a protective mechanism and allows me the choice of whether to tell, or not.

As I have said before, it is too late for James, but it is not too late for many other people to think what they are doing and ensure they take just that little bit more care around water.  Only then can the RNLI and the other contributing organisations of the National Water Safety Forum achieve their call to action and their ultimate aim:

To reduce accidental drowning fatalities in the UK by 50% by 2026, and reduce risk amongst the highest risk populations, groups and communities.

When you go out to enjoy the sunshine and if you are near water, whether inland or on the coast, remember the RNLI’s key message, and please, Respect The Water.



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