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Arklow RNLI Mechanic Michael Fitzgerald Retires After 40 Years

9th March 2021
Michael Fitzgerald with his retirement gifts Michael Fitzgerald with his retirement gifts Credit: RNLI/Arklow

Arklow RNLI marked the end of an era last Friday 5 March when Michael Fitzgerald, the station’s full-time mechanic retired after 40 years of dedicated service to the charity.

Michael, who grew up on Harbour Road in Arklow, first joined the RNLI in 1980 when he was just 16. At the time, the station had a wooden lifeboat.

It was his uncle, also Michael, a second mechanic on the crew, who inspired the then young Michael with a love for all things lifeboating.

While not eligible to officially join the crew until he was 17, Michael’s early passion shone through and to his delight, his name was registered a year early when the late coxswain Michael O’Brien made a plea on his behalf during a station inspection.

A former electrician, Michael volunteered for 19 years before being appointed Arklow RNLI’s full-time station mechanic, a position he held for the last 21 years.

His role involved a wide range of duties and evolved with time, with Michael serving on and maintaining six different classes of lifeboat including the station’s current all-weather Trent class lifeboat, the Ger Tigchlearr, which arrived in 1997. Michael was also a key member of the team when the call for help came and the lifeboat was put to sea.

‘A man of humility, integrity and passion, he has made a significant contribution to saving lives at sea off the Arklow coast’

Paying tribute to Michael this week, Peter Harty, RNLI area lifesaving manager, said: “Michael is the living embodiment of the RNLI’s values.

“A man of humility, integrity and passion, he has made a significant contribution to saving lives at sea off the Arklow coast for more than four decades and we are extremely grateful to him for his dedication and selfless service throughout that time.

“Thankfully, Michael will not be lost to us as he will remain on as a volunteer mechanic but we want to wish him every good health and happiness in the next chapter of his life.”

John Tyrell, Arklow RNLI lifeboat operations manager, added: “Over the course of four decades, Michael has worked tirelessly to ensure the operational effectiveness of our station here in Arklow through the operation, maintenance and repair of our lifeboat and its associated machinery and equipment.

“He always ensured everything was working to the highest standard and he did so with great passion and pride. Michael’s passion for his role extended to his ability to impart his knowledge to others.

“Over the years Michael has experienced all sorts of callouts and braved all sorts of weather and challenges at sea to help bring those in difficulty to safety.

“A humble man and a friend to all, Michael has always been at the core of our lifesaving team, working to keep our lifeboats and our crews safe and we are so thankful to him for that.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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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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