Meet the silver legends patrolling Williamstown beach

Any given weekend during the summer, Victorians swimming between the red and yellow flags at one of the state’s 57 patrolled locations can be assured they are under the watchful eye of experienced lifesavers.

At Williamstown Swimming and Lifesaving Club (S&LC), if you head down on the day the “Silver Patrol” are watching the beach, you will have 200 combined years of lifesaving wisdom keeping an eye on you.

Ian Barclay (64), René Birman (66) and Neil Emmett (70), who make up what the club affectionately calls its Silver Patrol, hold a range of lifesaving awards from bronze medallion, pool lifeguard, inflatable rescue boat (IRB) crew and driver certificate.

Three lifeguards standing in uniform and smiling at the camera

Using their combination of lifesaving and life experience, Ian, René and Neil love contributing to their local community and spending their time between the red and yellow flags.

Ian’s involvement at lifesaving dates back to the late 1990s, when his family got involved in nippers. From there, friends eventually persuaded him to become an active member and start patrolling.

During patrols, Ian has made a tight-knit group of new friends, including René and Neil. He also joined the Williamstown S&LC competitive marchpast team and even assisted police with apprehending a criminal at the beach.

“I love being a volunteer for the simple fact I can give back to our community and enjoy every minute of it,” Ian said.

“Although a grim situation, assisting the police demonstrates how vital patrolling is to help keep our community safe.

“Now, joining the marchpast team has been a steep learning curve for me. The great thing about lifesaving is that there are endless opportunities to try new things, the support and encouragement you get from other members, and you always know it will be done in a safe environment.”

Ian said despite a bit of playful banter with younger club members about how it was done, “back in our day”, he, René and Neil enjoy the inclusive environment at Williamstown S&LC and encourages people from all generations to get involved in volunteering.

“The Silver Patrol is a great initiative and demonstrates that you are never too old to participate in patrolling, it’s not just for younger generations,” he said.

“There is such a variety of people at our club; young and old, active and not so active, so it means people can join at any level they feel comfortable with – we aren’t just all iron persons!

“I love being part of the lifesaving community and I can’t see when or why I will stop patrolling – hopefully I never do!”

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