The first Shannon class RNLI lifeboat to go on service in Ireland was officially named today in a special ceremony attended by crowds of people in Buncrana, county Donegal. The €2.4m life-saving vessel has already been on nineteen callouts since its arrival on the North-West Coast last year and today it was officially named the ‘Derek Bullivant’ by the man responsible for getting the RNLI’s latest class of lifeboat named after an Irish river.
Arklow man Jimmy Tyrrell was with the RNLI for 46 years, making him the charity’s longest serving lifeboat operations volunteer on his retirement. He campaigned to have the RNLI name a class of lifeboat after an Irish river, in recognition of the service and dedication of Irish lifeboat volunteers. His wish was finally realised with the design and manufacture of the Shannon class lifeboat. The first of the class went on service at Dungeness in Kent back in 2014 .Jimmy was asked by Lough Swilly RNLI to officially name the lifeboat and he did so through the time honoured tradition of pouring champagne over the bow of the lifeboat to cheers from the crowd.
It was an emotional day for Jimmy, whose family are well-known and respected boat builders, as it is the culmination of a 27-year campaign to name an Irish lifeboat class. Speaking at the ceremony he said, ‘During my lifeboat career I have seen many changes in lifeboats, from wood, to steel, to fibre-glass and to today’s composite construction. Lifeboat speeds varied from eight-knots going downhill with the wind up your transom to this wonderful new waterjet propulsion achieving 25-knots. However, one thing that has not changed in the RNLI and that is its people. The basic commitment of crews is the same. Generations of them have put their lives on the line and sometimes lost their lives trying to help those in peril on the seas.’
A small service of blessing followed led by Fr Francis Bradley, Parish Priest of Buncrana and Reverend Judi McGaffin, Church of Ireland Rector.
The Donegal lifeboat station was the first in Ireland to receive the new lifeboat, which is the most modern and technically advanced lifeboat in the RNLI fleet. The Shannon is first class of lifeboat to be propelled by waterjets instead of traditional propellers, making it the most agile and manoeuvrable all-weather lifeboat in the fleet. The lifeboat has a top speed of 25 knots and a range of 250 nautical miles. The lifeboat was developed to operate in the worst of sea conditions and is self-righting, automatically turning the right side up in the event of a capsize.
The Derek Bullivant lifeboat (ON 1315) was funded by legacies from Mr Derek Bullivant and Mrs Valerie Walker. Mr. Bullivant was born in Birmingham in 1922 and went on to establish one of the biggest aluminium recycling companies in the UK. He wanted his success to benefit lifesaving and humanitarian charities which led him to provide a generous legacy which helped to fund the Lough Swilly lifeboat. The second legacy was bequeathed from Mrs. Valerie Walker from Portsmouth. Mrs. Walker was a supporter of the RNLI and her legacy has been used to part fund the lifeboat. A plaque honouring her will be placed in the lifeboat station.
Accepting the lifeboat, Lough Swilly RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager John McCarter said, ‘While we are in celebratory mood today God knows we have seen and been closely involved in our share of tragedy around our community, and we remember all those who have suffered great loss at the mercy of the sea. However at Lough Swilly RNLI it also strengthens our resolve to work harder and keep our equipment state of the art to enable us to provide search and rescue service around our coast. The Derek Bullivant lifeboat is testament to that.’
‘There are thirty volunteers at Lough Swilly RNLI. A number of our crew have been here from the beginning as young boys and girls and matured with the station where they now have families and potential new volunteers coming on themselves. Today is a very proud day for all of us here at Lough Swilly RNLI and I am absolutely delighted on behalf of all at Lough Swilly to accept this new Shannon Class boat the RNLB Derek Bullivant into our care.’
In the 29 years since Lough Swilly RNLI was established they have launched 741 times, brought 568 people to safety and saved forty-nine lives.