A former Warwickshire Police chief who has made an outstanding contribution to lifesaving around the world has become the first person to receive the Ireland Medal who has no ties to the country.
John Long, 74, of Hampton Magna, received the medal at a ceremony at the Garda Training College in County Tipperary last month in recognition of what was described by Irish Charity The Livesaving Foundation as a ‘truly exceptional personal contribution to saving lives from drowning worldwide’.
Congratulating Mr Long on behalf of all past medal recipients, retired Australian Chief Justice Terence Higgins told Mr Long “there are many heroes of lifesaving but I know of no-one who has contributed more than you.”
Mr Long, who has been a member of life saving clubs from the age of 16 when he also joined the police cadets, said; “I’m very honoured.
“It was very unexpected.
“What made it even more special for me is that I am the first person without any Irish descent to have received the award.”
Between 1957 and 1991 Mr Long was a police officer first in Suffolk and later in Warwickshire rising to the rank of Chief Superintendent.
During 34 years of service he was responsible for police lifesaving training in both counties and he has been a member of the Royal Life Saving Society’s UK branch since 1957 and has held various posts in two different UK branches.
He has been the president of the Warwick Life Saving Club since its formation in 1982.
Mr Long said: “As a police officer one of the oaths you take is for the preservation of life and I have always been a keen swimmer so it was just a natural progression for me.
“The World Health Organisation estimates that 400,000 people die each year from drowning but this is a very conservative figure.
“The Royal Life Saving Society says this is more like one million every year.
“The aim is to prevent as many people from drowning as we can.”
Mr Long was appointed secretary general of the Royal Life Saving Commonwealth Society in 1992 and tasked with promoting its work across its member nations until his retirement in 2010.
Following the steps of the society’s founder William Henry John, he travelled the world founding new national organisations in countrues including Uganda, Lesotho and India.
A sign of his status in world lifesaving is that he remains the patron of India’s national organisation Rashtriya Lifesaving Society.
Mr Long said: “While I was in Africa at a conference a man there spoke about a child called Angela.
“He said ‘she was nine months in the making, three years in the growing and two minutes in the drowning.. what a waste’, it’s a phrase I’ve used all over the world.”
In 2012 Mr Long, who has three children and seven grandchildren, received the highest honour bestowed in lifesaving when he was presented with the King Edward VII Cup by Queen Elizabeth at a private audience at Windsor Castle.
The citation with the cup simply read “for exceptional service to the Royal Lifesaving Society over some 50 years”.