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Bangor RNLI Celebrates 50 Years Of Lifesaving

7th June 2015
Bangor RNLI Celebrates 50 Years Of Lifesaving

#RNLI - On Friday 5 June, Bangor RNLI’s volunteer lifeboat crew, fundraisers and supporters gathered at the Marine Court Hotel to celebrate 50 years of saving lives at sea.

Records held in the archives of Bangor lifeboat station indicate that a lifeboat in Belfast Lough was first established at Groomsport in 1858, following the wrecking of a vessel near Bangor, with the loss of all the crew and in full view of local people standing on the shore.

Groomsport lifeboats launched 55 times and saved 87 lives over a period of 62 years from 1858 to 1920, when the station was closed.

It was reported that the number of lifeboat services were not more numerous due to the great number of fisherman and pilots in the area "of a fine and hardy type, who are not slow to risk their lives in their own boats, in which they have great confidence."

Some 45 years after the closure of Groomsport Lifeboat Station, an ever-increasing demand for lifesaving services along the coast led to considerations of re-establishing a lifeboat service in the Belfast Lough area.

Under the guidance of Ernie Hay, the first honorary secretary and North Down Borough Council officer, the RNLI chose to place a D-Class inflatable lifeboat at Bangor Harbour, opening for business on 15 May 1965.

With the co-operation of North Down Borough Council, the lifeboat was stored in the Tower House yard and was launched on a trolley at the slipway beside the old Harbour Masters Office. The co-operation between North Down Borough Council and the RNLI has continued without a break since those times.

The service of the lifeboat continued under the care of local volunteers and the demands put upon her volunteer crew increased year on year. Successive honorary secretaries managed the operational demands and the branch fundraising committee and ladies’ guild worked hard behind the scenes, raising the funds to cover operational costs. Over 40 local businesses also contributed to the funds by maintaining collecting boxes on their premises.

In 1984, following the construction of the Eisenhower Pier, North Down Borough Council built a new boathouse and slipway, which allowed for the subsequent upgrading of the boat to an Atlantic 21 class lifeboat, the then ‘Rolls Royce’ of fast inshore lifeboats.

The Youth of Ulster, a new boat funded by local donations, was put on station in 1990 and was formally named by HRH Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex in 1991.

In 2002 the RNLI invested £250,000 in building a new boathouse and crew facilities on a site kindly granted by North Down Borough Council. This boathouse was designed to accommodate the latest class of fast response inshore lifeboat.

Bangor RNLI celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2005 and, as a reflection of its fine service record since its foundation, in 2006 Bangor took delivery of the first Atlantic 85 class lifeboat in Ireland, the Jessie Hillyard. The new class of fast response inshore lifeboat costing over £120,000 was made possible through a legacy from Eileen Freeman in memory of her late mother Jessie Hillyard.



That same year, Bangor RNLI was the busiest lifeboat station out of all the 43 stations in Ireland, launching 53 times. From 2007 RNLI Bangor Lifeboat has been the busiest lifeboat out of the eight coastal stations in Northern Ireland.

Since the foundation of the station 50 years ago, over 110 local people have served as crew members. To date, over the years, Bangor lifeboats have launched 1,252 times, rescued over 1,000 people and saved 191 lives.

Everyone connected with Bangor RNLI – the crew, station management, fundraisers and helpers – are all volunteers, giving freely of their time, braving all weathers, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to help save life at sea.

Currently there are 20 crew members, male and female, from all walks of life including, among others, a council officer, a restaurateur, a plumber, a solicitor, a care worker, a satellite television engineer, a lorry driver and an orthopaedic surgeon.

RNLI volunteers continue to support annual seafront events, raise funds for other RNLI lifeboats and local organisations and, for 50 years, have played a vital part in Bangor’s maritime and community affairs.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) in Ireland Information

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is a charity to save lives at sea in the waters of UK and Ireland. Funded principally by legacies and donations, the RNLI operates a fleet of lifeboats, crewed by volunteers, based at a range of coastal and inland waters stations. Working closely with UK and Ireland Coastguards, RNLI crews are available to launch at short notice to assist people and vessels in difficulties.

RNLI was founded in 1824 and is based in Poole, Dorset. The organisation raised €210m in funds in 2019, spending €200m on lifesaving activities and water safety education. RNLI also provides a beach lifeguard service in the UK and has recently developed an International drowning prevention strategy, partnering with other organisations and governments to make drowning prevention a global priority.

Irish Lifeboat Stations

There are 46 lifeboat stations on the island of Ireland, with an operational base in Swords, Co Dublin. Irish RNLI crews are tasked through a paging system instigated by the Irish Coast Guard which can task a range of rescue resources depending on the nature of the emergency.

Famous Irish Lifeboat Rescues

Irish Lifeboats have participated in many rescues, perhaps the most famous of which was the rescue of the crew of the Daunt Rock lightship off Cork Harbour by the Ballycotton lifeboat in 1936. Spending almost 50 hours at sea, the lifeboat stood by the drifting lightship until the proximity to the Daunt Rock forced the coxswain to get alongside and successfully rescue the lightship's crew.

32 Irish lifeboat crew have been lost in rescue missions, including the 15 crew of the Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) lifeboat which capsized while attempting to rescue the crew of the SS Palme on Christmas Eve 1895.

FAQs

While the number of callouts to lifeboat stations varies from year to year, Howth Lifeboat station has aggregated more 'shouts' in recent years than other stations, averaging just over 60 a year.

Stations with an offshore lifeboat have a full-time mechanic, while some have a full-time coxswain. However, most lifeboat crews are volunteers.

There are 46 lifeboat stations on the island of Ireland

32 Irish lifeboat crew have been lost in rescue missions, including the 15 crew of the Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) lifeboat which capsized while attempting to rescue the crew of the SS Palme on Christmas Eve 1895

In 2019, 8,941 lifeboat launches saved 342 lives across the RNLI fleet.

The Irish fleet is a mixture of inshore and all-weather (offshore) craft. The offshore lifeboats, which range from 17m to 12m in length are either moored afloat, launched down a slipway or are towed into the sea on a trailer and launched. The inshore boats are either rigid or non-rigid inflatables.

The Irish Coast Guard in the Republic of Ireland or the UK Coastguard in Northern Ireland task lifeboats when an emergency call is received, through any of the recognised systems. These include 999/112 phone calls, Mayday/PanPan calls on VHF, a signal from an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) or distress signals.

The Irish Coast Guard is the government agency responsible for the response to, and co-ordination of, maritime accidents which require search and rescue operations. To carry out their task the Coast Guard calls on their own resources – Coast Guard units manned by volunteers and contracted helicopters, as well as "declared resources" - RNLI lifeboats and crews. While lifeboats conduct the operation, the coordination is provided by the Coast Guard.

A lifeboat coxswain (pronounced cox'n) is the skipper or master of the lifeboat.

RNLI Lifeboat crews are required to follow a particular development plan that covers a pre-agreed range of skills necessary to complete particular tasks. These skills and tasks form part of the competence-based training that is delivered both locally and at the RNLI's Lifeboat College in Poole, Dorset

 

While the RNLI is dependent on donations and legacies for funding, they also need volunteer crew and fund-raisers.

© Afloat 2020

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