Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Remembering Lives Lost At Sea

16th December 2015

I met a man this week who wants to make St.Stephen’s Day a national day of remembrance for those who have died in tragedies at sea.

There has never before been such a day in Ireland.

Noel McDonagh is from Dunmore East in County Waterford, one of the top fishing ports in the country where he spent many years of his life fishing.

He is the man who founded LAST – the charity called ‘Lost At Sea Tragedies’ – which has helped with financial aid to the families of fishermen who have lost members of their family in tragedies at sea.


“I have seen many tragedies, friends, relatives lost at sea, something had to be done and I felt I would do it,” Noel tells me on the current edition of my THIS ISLAND NATION radio programme which you can hear here. I have done many interviews in my career on radio and television. This will stand out in my memory. Noel is dedicated to this cause in which he believes. Now retired, having been involved in the outdoor sports equipment business after fishing, when I met him he was delivering special candles made for LAST to shops for sale at Christmastime, to raise funds for the charity.

After the tragedy when the three Bolger brothers – Paul, Kenny and Shane - drowned while fishing on the Waterford coast in June of 2013, Noel was part of the group which organised and launched a CD called “Songs for the River Men.” Many artistes - from Ireland, the UK, USA, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Newfoundland - contributed their work, to raise funds for the family.


Several coastal communities have arranged remembrance events for St.Stephen’s Day. “We are leaving it to communities to make their own arrangements. The remembrance will be for fishermen and all who have lost their lives at sea. Ireland should remember them and St.Stephen’s Day at Christmastime is a time to think of them and their families,” Noel said.

As well as helping families with financial aid when it is needed after a tragedy, LAST intends to “assist and educate the Irish fishing industry to help prevent future catastrophes while offering support and guidance to the families of those lost in fishing tragedies.”

“When there is a tragedy there is interest for a few weeks, amongst the media, the public, the State and then the tragedy can get forgotten. But LAST will not forget. Our aim is to create awareness about tragedies, the effects on families, on communities and how they should be avoided,” Noel McDonagh says. “LAST will achieve its aims by informing and influencing the Irish fishing industry, coastal communities, businesses, Governmental and non-governmental organisations in and around Ireland.”

Do please listen to his interview and also to Niamh Stephenson, Public Relations Manager with the RNLI, who recalls that last year, there were 100 call-outs of the lifeboats between Christmas and the New Year when 67 lives were saved. CEO of Irish Water Safety, John Leech, tells us about the national wards to those who have contributed to water safety and there is a beautiful story from Rhoda Twombly, Secretary of Comhdháil Oileán na hÉireann – the Islands’ Federation – about the difficulties of getting home to an offshore island with the Christmas supplies in bad weather.

On the programme I am also told how school pupils cleared 12 tonnes of rubbish from a beach wetlands area in East Cork where over 11,000 birds have been recorded. That debris included an entire camping tent, containing clothing, which had been buried on the beach.

As their teacher says: “Nothing about the way people disregard the importance of protecting our marine areas surprises me any longer!”

Published in Island Nation Team

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