‘Dee-Day’ for doctor’s fundraising book about a brave little lifeboat

Portrush’s very own ‘Doc Martin’ has published a children’s book to raise funds for the RNLI.

Illustrator Alice Rohdich and author Martin O’Kane at work creating Dee the Little Lifeboat
Illustrator Alice Rohdich and author Martin O’Kane at work creating Dee the Little Lifeboat

Dr Martin O’Kane, who is a GP partner in Ballycastle and is also the Lifeboat Medical Advisor (LMA) for the Portrush RNLI crews, came up with the idea as he was relaxing with a cup of coffee, looking out over the town’s beautiful East Strand.

Martin, who is also working in the Covid testing centre in Ballymena, was inspired to write the book during lockdown when he began to think about how the pandemic was having a crippling effect on the RNLI’s fundraising calendar.

“Portrush RNLI has such a great fundraising team and there’s almost an event every month from the annual Raft Race to the Winter Ball, to swims, but everything relied on bringing people together which we just couldn’t do during lockdown.

Martin with the finished product with the D-boat which inspired Dee the Little Lifeboat

“We always talk about the ‘lifeboat family’ so I started thinking about our lifeboats and how their various sizes are like different members of a family and thought - what if I write about a small boat having an adventure?”

So Martin created Dee the Little Lifeboat, named after the smaller RNLI boat which carries two or three crew members and is called a D-boat.

“I had done some creative writing in the past and sent it to friends who are publishers who have me advice and after all that, the book just lay in a drawer for three months,” said Martin.

It was when he saw some of the artistic work of Portrush woman Alice Rohdich that Martin was inspired to press ahead with the project.

“When I saw Alice’s work, I just knew she was exactly who I would want to illustrate Dee.

“Her work is fantastic, just magical, and far exceeds anything I have written.”

So the collaboration between Martin and Alice, whose family has a strong RNLI connection too, resulted in the finished product which will be launched officially on October 23 in the Arcadia in Portrush.

“Dee’s adventure takes her from Portrush to Rathlin,” said Martin.

“As I work in Ballycastle, I just knew that I had to include that area in the adventure.

“The story features all the iconic buildings in Portrush such as Barry’s and the Arcadia.

“I really wanted to celebrate the incredible vista that we have on the north coast, it’s the most stunning part of the world - there’s not many 20 miles journeys where you find a castle, a rope bridge and a distillery along the way!

“In the story we hear how a dog falls from some rocks and Dee’s two big brothers who are lifeboats tell her she is too small to help rescue the animal.

“But Dee is based on a D-boat which can come in very close to the shore so she has other ideas!

“As Dee is a little lifeboat, I also wanted to include some life saving advice so, for example, the RNLI’s Float to Live campaign is featured.”

After its official launch on October 23, ‘Dee the Little Lifeboat’ will be for sale priced at £9.95 from the Arcadia in Portrush; Memento, Causeway Street; Rohdich’s Souvenir Shop, Main Street and Indigo Cafe, Eglinton Street.

Pre-orders of the book are also available.

Cheques (including the price of postage and packaging) should be made out to RNLI Portrush and posted to: Dee the Little Lifeboat, c/o Jane Brown, 24 Hopefield Gardens, Portrush, BT56 8QG.

Or the book can be ordered via the social media channels of Dee the Little Lifeboat on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using Paypal.

Postage and packaging costs are £2.50 for the UK; £5.50 for European Union countries and £8.50 for countries outside Europe.