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At a recent awards ceremony, some 14 members of Clifden RNLI’s fundraising branch received long service medals recognising their combined 400 years of fundraising in Connemara.

As a fully independent charity organisation, the RNLI relies on donations to fund its lifesaving work. The Clifden lifeboat crew are on call 24/7 but they require ongoing training, well maintained equipment, lifeboats and shore equipment to carry out their mission of saving lives at sea.

None of this would be possible without the dedication, commitment and drive of our local fundraisers who have each dedicated many years to supporting their local coastal community.

The commitment and selflessness of Clifden’s fundraising volunteers was acknowledged by Danny Curran, RNLI regional engagement manager.

Speaking at the ceremony, he said: “I know how much thought and effort goes in raising every euro for our charity and I’m extremely grateful to the volunteers here today who have worked tirelessly on this goal for decades. In rain, hail and snow; every week, every month, every year, you have ensured we can keep our life saving services running.

“These awards are not just to celebrate the fundraising volunteers for their incredible achievements over many years but also their families and friends who play a key role in supporting our work.”

Long service award recipients include Padraig Mc Donagh from Kilkerrin who is the longest serving fundraiser in the branch, having dedicated an incredible 55 years to Clifden RNLI; Eileen and Oliver Coyne from Cleggan, who are responsible for the legendary RNLI Christmas hamper raffle; and Anne Marie Bennett, outgoing chair of the fundraising branch and highly valued RNLI volunteer.

A special moment was observed for Lavinia Joyce who sadly passed away in August this year. Lavinia was the first chairperson of the Clifden/Connemara fundraising branch, or the “Clifden Ladies Guild” as it was known when she joined in 1992. Her enthusiasm, dedication and sense of purpose to be involved with the RNLI was infectious. She was an inspiration to all of us and an absolute lady. Rest in peace, Lavinia.

Clifden RNLI Long Service Awardees 2023:

  • Geraldine Heanue
  • AnneMarie Bennett
  • Padraic Griffin
  • Stewart Freeman
  • Collin Mullen
  • Paraic Mc Donagh
  • Percy Hyland
  • Oliver and Eileen Coyne
  • Jacqueline Hannon
  • Nancy Duffy
  • Lavinia Joyce
  • Ann Day
  • Thomas King
Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Clifden RNLI’s volunteer crew were tasked by the Irish Coast Guard at 1.45pm on Tuesday (26 October) following a report that three people were stranded on Omey Island.

The Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat was launched by volunteer helm Kenny Flaherty with Joe Acton and Neill Gallery as crew.

Weather conditions were good with calm seas and the lifeboat crew had no difficulty locating the walkers on Omey Island.

The casualties were found to be well and did not require medical assistance. They were returned to the shore at Claddaghduff where Cleggan Coast Guard provided further assistance.

Speaking after the shout, Clifden RNLI lifeboat operations officer John Brittain said: “We would remind locals and visitors to always check tide times and heights before venturing out to Omey and to always make sure you have enough time to return safely.

“If you do get cut off by the tide, it is important to stay where you are and not attempt a return to shore on your own as that may be when the danger presents and you get into difficulty.

“Always carry a means of communication and should you get into difficulty or see someone else in trouble, dial 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

New residents of a Connemara island, which was once depopulated, have put an offshore exhibition together for the Clifden Arts Festival.

Four artists on Turbot Island are hoping their work will be viewed on the island, and have organised a ferry timetable from Clifden Boat Club for “InisturbART”, as the event is called.

Turbot or “Inishturbot” is a few miles west of Clifden and south of Omey, and its population of 60 was relocated to the mainland in 1978, four years after three islanders died in a currach capsize.

Patrick O’Toole (58), Patrick Stuffle (48) and Michael Wallace (62) were on their way home to Turbot from watching the All-Ireland football final in Clifden in September 1974 when the incident happened.

Driftwood painted by Dutch island resident Stefan FrenkelDriftwood painted by Dutch island resident Stefan Frenkel

Latterly, seasonal visitors bought property, and Covid-19 transformed Turbot into a refuge from the pandemic.

Among those who found themselves extending their seasonal stay and adapting to island life were Dutch couple Stefan and Hanneke Frenkel, both of whom have worked in advertising and interior design.

They were inspired by the island environment, and the enforced quarantine during the early stages of the pandemic, to develop their creative skills.

Hanneke Frenkel’s sea mats and carpets, woven from rope washed up on the shoreline, caught the eye of the curators of the Irish pavilion at this year’s Venice Architectural Biennale.

Collecting sea rope off Turbot island for the artists' exhibition for Clifden Arts Festival.JPGCollecting sea rope off Turbot island for the artists' exhibition for Clifden Arts Festival

Her husband Stefan has transformed pieces of fish boxes, ropes, nets, buoys, rubber ducks and other beachcombing material into paintings which reflect “small events on Turbot”.

David Wilkinson has recorded his experiences in coming to the west over several decades in a book entitled Island Journal: One Year and a Day. He first came as a child as his parents had a holiday home on Inishlacken, close to Roundstone.

Also participating in the group exhibition is Dublin maths teacher and musician Peter Knox, who spends much of the year now on Turbot. Several years ago, he adapted a poem about the 1974 drownings, which was written by local man Joseph O’Toole, into a song.

The piece entitled “Turbot Men” was recorded on video. Knox has also created a private art gallery in his island home.

The four artists say that living on the remote island has allowed them to “embrace the challenge of limited entertainment” by “unleashing their imagination, resourcefulness, and love for island living in a range of art projects for their group exhibition”.

They have put together a three-and-a-half hour tour on Turbot for Clifden Arts Festival participants, and there will be three ferry crossings a day from Clifden Boat Club on September 16th, 19th and 24th, with tickets at 20 euro.

Another Connemara island, Omey, will be venue for an illuminated procession by landscape theatre specialists LUXE which will celebrate the Connemara Pony Breeders’ Society’s centenary as part of the arts festival programme.

Christy Moore, Clare Sands and Johnny Óg Connolly are among musicians performing at Clifden, while Séamus Ó Flatharta (voice and whistle), Caoimhe Ní Fhlatharta (voice and fiddle), Pádraic Keane (uilleann pipes) and the ConTempo Quartet (viola, violin, and cello) will present “Stolen Hearts,” a new piece by Grammy Award winning composer Bill Whelan.

The festival’s extensive arts trail includes work by Seán Ó Flaithearta in Clifden Court House and Connemara Muses, an initiative led by 16 female artists.

Talks and readings will include sailor and explorer Kevin Cronin, speaking on his new book, In Search of Franklin: An Irish Connection, and James Morrissey, author of Real to Reel:Garech Browne and Claddagh Records.

Michael Viney’s last book completed before he died will be launched by Irish Times group managing director Deirdre Veldon on September 24th .

The Clifden Arts Festival will be opened by broadcaster, uilleann piper and musical historian Peter Browne on September 13th, and it runs until September 24th.

More details here

Published in Island News
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The volunteer crew of Clifden RNLI were called out on Friday morning (25 August) at 7.30am to assist a stranded yacht off Connemara.

The vessel with two sailors on board had come into difficulty to the south-west of Inishark, which is west of Inisbofin.

Both of Clifden’s lifeboats launched: the inshore Atlantic 85 helmed by Daniel Whelan with Shane Conneely and Chris Nee as crew; and the all-weather Shannon class St Christopher with John Mullen as coxswain, James Mullen, Joe Acton, Neil Gallery and Alan Kearney as crew.

They were assisted from the shore by Tom Guy, John Heffernan and Sean Mercer.

Sea conditions at the time were moderate, with Force 5 winds and good visibility.

On arriving at the scene, the crews found the sailors to be well and in good spirits however the propeller and rudder on their yacht had become badly entangled with ropes.

The lifeboat volunteers set about establishing a tow line and brought the casualty vessel and the passengers back to safety at Cleggan Harbour.

Speaking after the rescue, Mullen said: “The sailors today did the right thing in calling for assistance when they ran into difficulty and I am delighted we were able help. Our volunteer crew did a great job of ensuring a speedy, safe and successful operation this morning.

“I’d like to thank the two sailors who kindly offered to buy breakfast for the crew after we reached the shore. The breakfast was most welcome after an early start saving lives at sea.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

The volunteer crew of Clifden RNLI were called out on Tuesday (11 July) to assist a vessel with three anglers on board suffering mechanical failure at the mouth of Killary Harbour.

Weather conditions at the time were very poor with heavy rain and limited visibility.

While preparing to launch on a training exercise on their Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat, the Clifden crew were tasked to assist a small angling vessel with mechanical failure at the mouth of Killary Harbour, 22 nautical miles away.

It was reported that the casualty boat had three people on board and was drifting towards the rocks.

The Atlantic 85 was immediately away under the helm of Alan Pryce, with crew Chris Nee, Shane Conneely and Connor O’Malley.

While en route, the lifeboat crew were informed that the casualty vessel had drifted onto the rocks and immediate assistance was required.

Clifden’s Shannon class all-weather lifeboat was also tasked to provide additional cover with John Mullen as coxswain and crew members Joe Acton, Dan Whelan, James Mullen and Brian Ward. They were assisted by John Heffernan and Neil Gallery on the shore. The Shannon-based Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 115 also made its way to the scene.

The inshore lifeboat crew arrived at the location to find the fishing boat on the rocks and the three fishermen had climbed onto the rocky shoreline.

The situation was precarious and the weather conditions were poor. However, the volunteer crew managed to extract the three casualties and put the stricken vessel under tow.

The casualties were cold and wet but in otherwise good form, and they were brought, along with their boat, to Rossroe pier to safety.

Speaking about the call-out, Clifden RNLI helm Alan Pryce said: “I’d like to commend the crew on a well-executed rescue in very tricky conditions. The crew and the lifeboat performed incredibly well and the top cover of R115 and Clifden ALB ensured a swift response and successful outcome.

“The volunteer crew at our station are on call 24/7. If you get into difficulty, or see someone else in trouble, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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The volunteer crew of Clifden RNLI in Co Galway towed a broken-down boat with two people on board to safety yesterday evening and were tasked again at midnight to a medevac from the island of Inishbofin.

At 6.45pm on Friday (26 May), Clifden’s Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat was tasked by Malin Head Coast Guard to assist a boat that had broken down.

The crew launched Joyce King in beautiful sunny conditions, helmed by David Barry with crew James Mullen, Joseph Acton and Brian Ward. They were assisted by Neil Gallery and John Brendan Mannion on shore.

The crew arrived on scene to find the casualties had anchored and did not require medical attention. The stricken vessel was taken under tow back to a mooring in Clifden Bay, arriving without incident at 8.45pm.

Another callout came at midnight when Clifden’s all-weather lifeboat St Christopher was tasked to evacuate an injured person from Inishbofin. The casualty had sustained a head injury from a fall.

The lifeboat slipped her moorings under the command of coxswain James Mullen with John Mullen, Joseph Acton, Dan Whelan and Neil Gallery as crew.

The weather was calm en route with a beautiful night at sea, and the lifeboat made it to Inishbofin in excellent time. The crew met with the island nurse who provided a handover and then proceeded to transport the patient back to Cleggan pier. An ambulance was waiting to bring the patient to hospital for further treatment.

Speaking about the shouts, James Mullen said: “It was a busy night for our volunteer crew and I want to thank everyone involved, in particular the island nurse, An Garda Síochána, the National Ambulance Service and the coastguard who assisted in the multi-agency medical evacuation.

“Our volunteer crew remain on call 24/7, with the good weather promised we urge everyone to be safe around the water. If you get into difficulty, or see someone else in trouble, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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A special ceremony and service of dedication was held yesterday (Saturday, 22 April) at Clifden RNLI, when the Connemara lifeboat station’s new all-weather Shannon class lifeboat, St Christopher, was officially named. The lifeboat, which went on service in May last year, was funded by a legacy from Christopher Harris, in admiration for the lifesaving work of the RNLI.

The lifeboat has been named St Christopher, as per his family’s wishes and reflects his lifelong love of travel. Born in March 1939, Christopher was evacuated during the war but returned to live with his aunt, who ran a farm. Upon qualifying as an accountant, marrying and starting a family, he combined his career with travel, before eventually settling in Surrey. He had a strong calling to look after others, and it is believed this is what influenced his support for the work of the RNLI.

During the ceremony, the lifeboat was handed into the care of the RNLI by Christopher’s daughter, Phillipa Harris. Lifeboat Operations Manager John Brittain then accepted it on behalf of the Galway station, before the lifeboat was officially named by Gill Hinton, another of Christopher’s daughters. Commenting on naming of the St Christopher, Philippa Harris said, ‘We’re incredibly proud to be here on behalf of our father, Christopher Harris, and we’re so happy that the boat will be used by such brave and generous people, as the RNLI volunteer crew.’

Philippa Harris, Gill Hinton, and Cox James Mullen at the naming ceremony of the Clifden RNLI LifeboatPhilippa Harris, Gill Hinton, and Cox James Mullen at the naming ceremony of the Clifden RNLI Lifeboat

Speaking at the event, Lifeboat Operations Manager John Brittain said, ‘This is a proud day for everyone at Clifden RNLI, for our families and the local community. We are honoured to be the custodians of this magnificent lifeboat, which will save many lives on this part of the coast and which will bring our lifeboat crews home safe in all weathers. It is an incredible gift to give a community. We have a very special community here in West Connemara - in the lifetime of this station, our fishing community, local businesses, friends and supporters, has never let us down. From fund-raising to donations of services and all manner of dig outs, whatever we have asked for, our community has delivered. I am incredibly proud that this new state-of-the-art Lifeboat is here in Clifden.

The donor family with Clifden RNLI St. Christopher after the naming ceremonyThe donor family with Clifden RNLI St. Christopher after the naming ceremony

He added, ‘Our thanks to the late Christopher Harris and to his family, some of whom have travelled here for this occasion. There will always be a welcome for Christopher’s family and friends at Clifden RNLI.’

RNLI Head of Region Anna Classon said, ‘Congratulations to everyone involved with this wonderful occasion. This lifeboat is a huge addition to lifesaving on the west coast of Ireland. Behind every lifeboat is a team of people working together to ensure that when the call for help comes, the response is immediate. To all the lifeboat volunteers, shore crew, station management, fundraisers and donors, this day is the culmination of years of hard work and commitment.’

Clifden RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager John BrittainClifden RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager John Brittain

Tributes were also paid to Saul Joyce and Bernard Whelan who were the first two volunteers to join Clifden RNLI back in 1989 and who retired earlier this year.

The € 2.7 million Shannon class lifeboat is the most recent class of all-weather lifeboat to join the RNLI fleet. It is the first modern all-weather lifeboat to be propelled by waterjets instead of traditional propellers, making it more agile and manoeuvrable.

Following the ceremony, the public had an opportunity to view the lifeboat, which is usually moored afloat, up close. The lifeboat was brought onto Clifden beach to allow the public to view the names of over 10,000 loved ones, which were pledged on the lifeboat through a special fundraising initiative. ‘Launch a Memory, which was run by the charity back in 2020.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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The volunteer crew at Clifden RNLI were called out on Sunday 19 March to assist a vessel suffering mechanical failure near the island of Inishturk in Co Galway.

At noon the Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat launched under the command of helm James Mullen with Joe Acton and Kenny Flaherty as crew and Shane Conneely as tractor driver.

A call had come in from a local fisherman John O’Toole about a small boat with three passengers which had lost power near Inishturk, south of Omey Island.

Conditions at sea were poor with limited visibility and heavy rain, and the casualty vessel was reportedly drifting towards rocks.

The volunteer crew made their way to the location in less than five minutes, by this time O’Toole had begun to tow the stricken vessel away from the rocks. The lifeboat crew proceeded to escort both boats to safety.

Speaking about the callout, Mullen said: “I would like to commend John O’Toole for his fast actions yesterday. This could have been a very serious outcome for the three passengers involved but John called for assistance firstly, located the boat and was in a position to safely assist them.”

The lifeboat helm also has the following advice for anyone going afloat: “When going to sea we would remind everyone to check their engine and fuel, always wear a lifejacket or buoyancy aid and carry a means of calling for help. If you see someone in difficulty on or near the water, dial 999 and ask for the coastguard.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Both Clifden lifeboats were launched on Monday morning (13 March) to conduct a search after an EPIRB distress signal was detected by Malin Head Coast Guard in the area around Letterfrack in Co Galway.

An EPIRB, or emergency position indicating radio beacon, is a device to alert search and rescue services in case of an emergency out at sea.

Deputy launching authority Saul Joyce launched Clifden RNLI’s Shannon class all-weather lifeboat St Christopher under the command of coxswain Alan Pryce with mechanic Joe Acton, navigator Dan Whelan and crew of Andy Bell, Chris Nee and John Heffernan.

The all-weather lifeboat made best speed to the search area of Mullaghloss on the Renvyle peninsula. While that boat was en route and with more information becoming available, Clifden RNLI’s Atlantic 85 was launched with Thomas Davis at the helm and crew of Kevin Ryan and Shane Conneely.

The Irish Coast Guard’s Sligo-based helicopter Rescue 118 was also tasked to search along with Cleggan Coast Guard units.

An extensive search was carried out of the reported areas by all assets with a large portion of the north Connemara coast searched. With all involved satisfied that there was no vessel in distress in the area, the coastguard stood down all assets and the volunteer crews returned to station.

Clifden RNLI coxswain Alan Pryce said Monday’s call “demonstrates how a well coordinated multi-agency search can cover a very large area thoroughly and efficiently.

“Thankfully there was no vessel in distress on this occasion but we remain ready to respond every time the pager goes.”

Speaking about EPIRBs, Pryce added: “Emergency beacons are a lifesaving piece of equipment, I would encourage any boat owners to check the service status and registration details of any beacons on board. If you don’t have an EPIRB you should consider getting one because they will help search and rescue services to pinpoint the location of a vessel in distress.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Clifden RNLI’s volunteer crew launched the Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat on Monday afternoon (24 October) to assist nine people who were caught by the tide on Omey Island in western Connemara.

Malin Head Coast Guard requested assistance from Clifden RNLI just before 4pm and the lifeboat launched immediately after under the command of volunteer helm Kenny Flaherty.

Weather conditions at the time were poor with heavy rain. However the nine people stranded on the island were found to be well and in good spirits.

The lifeboat crew proceeded to make two trips with the casualties back to the shore at Claddaghduff and safely returned all nine people to the mainland.

Speaking after the shout, Clifden RNLI lifeboat operations officer John Brittain said: “We would remind locals and visitors to always check tide times and heights before venturing out and to always make sure you have enough time to return safely.

“If you do get cut off by the tide, it is important to stay where you are and not attempt a return to shore on your own as that may be when the danger presents and you get into difficulty. Always carry a means of communication and should you get into difficulty or see someone else in trouble, dial 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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