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Dun Laoghaire Harbour RNLI Christmas Eve Ceremony Marks 200th Anniversary of Four Crew Lost at Sea

24th December 2021
The short service at the end of the East Pier commemorated all lives lost around our coasts and on inland waters in 2021
The short service at the end of the East Pier commemorated all lives lost around our coasts and on inland waters in 2021 Credit: Dun Laoghaire RNLI/Conrad Jones

The annual Dun Laoghaire RNLI Christmas Eve ceremony was held this afternoon to honour the memory of 15 lifeboat volunteers who died on service 126 years ago. This year’s ceremony also marked the 200th anniversary of the death of four crew members who died on a call-out at Christmas time in 1821.

The short service at the end of the East Pier commemorated all lives lost around our coasts and on inland waters in 2021.

Dun Laoghaire RNLI’s volunteer crew traditionally hold this annual ceremony at the East Pier lighthouse as part of a long-standing local custom to acknowledge the sacrifice of their colleagues in carrying out their duty.

Wreaths were placed by the lifeboat crew at sea off the East Pier in memory of all lives lost at seaWreaths were placed by the lifeboat crew at sea off the East Pier Photo: Conrad Jones

The lifeboat service on Dublin Bay is one of the oldest in the world, dating back to 1803 and a lifeboat was based at nearby Sandycove as one of several local stations.

During a service to the brig Ellen in an easterly gale on 28 December 1821, the lifeboat with 14 crew members onboard, was swamped and the crew were washed out of the lifeboat with four people losing their lives; Hugh Byrne, Thomas Fitzsimons, John Archbold and Thomas Grimes.

On Christmas Eve in 1895, the number two lifeboat was capsized in gale force winds while proceeding to the assistance of the SS Palme of Finland that had run aground off Blackrock. All 15 crew members onboard, drowned.

During today’s ceremony, wreaths were placed by the lifeboat crew at sea off the East Pier in memory of all lives lost at sea.

The Covid-19 compliant ceremony beside the lighthouse, featured musician William Byrne performing The Ballad of the Palme and Sports broadcaster Des Cahill who reading a newspaper account of the disaster, which was published at the time. An ecumenical blessing was given by Reverends Bruce Hayes and Fr. Padraig Gleeson before a lament was played by piper Paul McNally.

There was a joint guard of honour provided by representatives from the Dun Laoghaire Coast Guard Unit and Civil Defence.

As the ceremony came to a close, Dun Laoghaire RNLI’s inshore lifeboat was called out to rescue a dog that had fallen from the West Pier at Coal Harbour. They immediately raced to the scene, retrieving the dog from the water and reuniting it with the owner, before returning back to station and standing down.

The names of the 15 volunteer crew members who died in 1895 were John Baker, John Bartley, Edward Crowe, Thomas Dunphy, William Dunphy, Francis McDonald, Edward Murphy, Patrick Power, James Ryan, Francis Saunders, George Saunders, Edward Shannon, Henry Underhill, Alexander Williams and Henry Williams.

The lifeboat capsized when about 600 yards from the distressed vessel and, although every effort was made to render help to the lifeboat and to the SS Palme, nothing could be done.

The number one lifeboat also put out with only a crew of nine and obtained six further volunteers from HMS Melampus. She also capsized under sail but fortunately, all regained the lifeboat.

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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.

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