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Coxswains from Dunmore East, Rosslare Harbour, Kilmore Quay and Castletownbere RNLI have been presented with gallantry awards by His Royal Highness (HRH) The Duke of Kent, in recognition of their lifesaving roles in rescues off the coast of Wexford and West Cork.

The Duke – the RNLI’s President – attended a lunch for a number of volunteers and employees and their partners at St James’s Palace in London on Friday (27 May), during which four Irish Coxswains were presented with the RNLI Bronze Medal for Gallantry.

Mark Dowie, RNLI Chief Executive said: ‘First awarded in 1824, RNLI Medals for Gallantry are the highest honours bestowed by the charity. They are awarded for saving life at sea and celebrate the courage, skill and dedication shown by our charity’s lifesavers.

‘To receive their awards at St James’s Palace from The Duke of Kent is an honour and as the charity’s chief executive, I am humbled and proud of all our volunteers and employees that make up this incredible institution. Every one of them and their families give so much to the charity and our purpose of saving lives at sea.’

Castletownbere RNLI Coxswain Dean Hegarty was presented with a Bronze Medal for Gallantry for his part in the dramatic rescue of a fishing crew in October 2018. In challenging conditions, the Castletownbere crew saved the lives of six fishermen. A local presentation on a future date will see the crew involved receive RNLI framed Letters of Thanks.

The rescue of the six men who were the crew of the 25m fishing vessel, Clodagh O, took place on the evening of 10 October 2018 at an area known as The Pipers immediately south west of the harbour entrance at Castletownbere. Answering an urgent Mayday from the fishing crew, the lifeboat launched in darkness into a Force 9 gale, driving rain and heavy squalls, to rescue the crew who were in grave and imminent danger due to their vessel having lost all power after their propeller became fouled on their fishing gear.

The Duke of Kent with Dean Hegarty of Castletownbere RNLI Photo: Beaumont PhotographyThe Duke of Kent with Dean Hegarty of Castletownbere RNLI Photo: Beaumont Photography

Arriving on scene, the lifeboat crew saw that the fishing vessel was located in a precarious position and Coxswain Hegarty made the decision not to take the crew off the boat but instead establish a towline in breaking 4-5m swells.

With the weather deteriorating, there was only a short window of opportunity to save the men before the vessel would hit the rocks or cliff face and be lost. With the Coxswain skilfully manoeuvring the lifeboat into position and holding it steady in mountainous seas, the lifeboat crew on deck established a tow on first attempt. The Coxswain had to initially steer the lifeboat out to sea to gain a safe separation between the rocks and cliffs before he could then turn the lifeboat and start the journey back to the harbour. The tow was carried out at a speed of a half a knot in case it parted, only gathering speed as they found shelter. Once inside the safety of the harbour two local tugboats helped to secure the boat alongside the pier.

RNLI Coxswains Eamonn O’Rourke from Rosslare Harbour, Eugene Kehoe from Kilmore Quay and Roy Abrahamsson from Dunmore East were also presented with Bronze Medals for Gallantry on Friday for their role in a rescue in 2020 that saved nine lives and prevented a 100m cargo vessel, carrying 4,000 tonnes of coal, from hitting rocks at Hook Head. The volunteer lifeboat crews who responded to the call out will each receive Medal Certificates.

On 20 October 2020, Dunmore East RNLI, Kilmore Quay RNLI and Rosslare Harbour RNLI, along with Rescue 117, conducted a joint rescue operation off the Wexford coast. The Lily B had lost all power, just two nautical miles from Hook Head. Conditions on scene were force eight with severe force nine gusts and wave heights between eight and ten metres. The Lily B was drifting and in danger of striking rocks on Hook Head or capsizing in the heavy seas.

The 12-hour service in challenging conditions saw multiple attempts by the lifeboat crews involved to establish a tow between the casualty vessel and the lifeboats. With the crew of the Lily B unable to stay on deck for long in the poor conditions and with language difficulties, two of the lifeboats were eventually successful in passing a rope on deck by using a rocket line and pulling the cargo vessel clear of the rocks. The lifeboat tow was maintained for three hours with waves continually crashing over the decks until the tug vessel Tramontine from Waterford Port arrived on scene and took up the tow. The three lifeboats stayed with the Lily B until they reached the safety of the Waterford Estuary.

During the ceremony, Coxswain Eamonn O’Rourke was also accorded a vellum for his role during a Storm Ophelia rescue in 2017 in hurricane conditions described by the crew as some of the worst they had ever witnessed. The crew battled 10m seas in force 12 conditions to save three lives. The Rosslare lifeboat crew involved will each receive Vellum Service Certificates.

At 10am on 16 October 2017, a Mayday was received by the Irish Coast Guard from the skipper of Second Love, a 10m Dehler yacht, in serious trouble en route from the UK to Malahide. With conditions deteriorating rapidly the crew were struggling to keep control of the yacht. They had planned to berth in Rosslare but decided to head to Arklow in a bid to outrun the weather. Rosslare Harbour RNLI lifeboat was launched, and the rescue lasted four hours in severe weather and sea conditions. In what proved a vital course of action on the day, a decision was made to pass a drogue (a device trailed behind a vessel to slow it down in rough conditions) to the casualty yacht and then establish a tow to bring the vessel to safety.

Commending those who received awards on Friday and those who will receive awards locally, Anna Classon, RNLI Head of Region for Ireland, said: ‘The RNLI does not give out awards for gallantry lightly and to receive one is a great privilege. Everyone in the region is extremely proud of our lifeboat crews involved in these three rescues for their brave actions that together saved the lives of 18 people.’

HRH The Duke of Kent has been President of the RNLI since 1969 after succeeding both his parents as President of the charity.

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A lifeboat mechanic from Portrush RNLI was invited to join His Royal Highness (HRH) The Duke of Kent at St James’s Palace last week (Friday 27 May) to be presented with a Vellum from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) for his part in a daring rescue that saved the life of a teenage boy off Portstewart Head in September 2020. Portrush RNLI station mechanic Dave Robinson attended the event with his wife Livvy, where he was awarded a Vellum for his actions that day.

The Duke – the RNLI’s President – attended a lunch for the 16 volunteers and employees and their partners, including lifeboat crew from Castletownbere, Rosslare Harbour, Kilmore Quay, Dunmore East, Portrush, Trearddur Bay, Salcombe, and Hayling Island, along with RNLI lifeguards from Mawgan Porth in Cornwall.

A total of 12 RNLI Medals for Gallantry were presented to crew and lifeguards by The Duke and six crew were accorded Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum.

Portrush RNLI Station Mechanic Dave Robinson was awarded a Vellum for his role in saving the life of a teenage boy in the sea off Portstewart Head in 2020. The lifeboat mechanic attached himself to a heaving line before jumping into the turbulent water and bringing the exhausted young man to safety. More information including video of the rescue here.

Portrush RNLI Station Mechanic Dave RobinsonHRH with Portrush RNLI Station Mechanic Dave Robinson Photo: Beaumont Photography

Lifeboat crew at Portrush RNLI are receiving two awards from the Institution for the rescue. Along with the Vellum for Dave Robinson, the Coxswain Des Austin, will receive a Chairman’s Letter of Thanks for ‘his professionalism, seamanship, and leadership under severe pressure’ during the rescue. He will receive his Letter at a presentation to be held locally later.

The callout occurred on Friday September 25th, 2020, when lifeboat crew responded to reports of a young boy spotted in the water off Portstewart Head. On arrival at the scene, lifeboat crew observed a teenage boy in the surf, waving his arms and flailing, while being pulled out to sea by the tide. In a dramatic rescue, a heaving line was attached to Mechanic Dave Robinson’s lifejacket, and he entered the water to reach the teenager, keeping hold of him in the choppy waters. Coxswain Des Austin manoeuvred the lifeboat in the breaking swell, to keep as close as possible to the casualty, while the mechanic kept hold of the boy until the lifeboat crew were able to hoist both to safety and return to shore.

Mark Dowie, RNLI Chief Executive said: ‘RNLI gallantry awards are given for saving life at sea and celebrate the courage, skill and dedication shown by our charity’s lifesavers.

‘To receive their awards at St James’s Palace from The Duke of Kent is an honour and as the charity’s chief executive, I am humbled and proud of all our volunteers and employees that make up this incredible institution. Every one of them and their families give so much to the charity and our purpose of saving lives at sea.’

Commenting on the honour for the station, Portrush RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager Beni McAllister said, ‘Words can’t describe how proud I am of our incredible lifeboat crew in Portrush. We are all delighted for Dave on his gallantry award and for Des who will also be recognised for his role in the rescue. No crewmember goes out to get recognition or reward. They are selfless people who drop everything to answer a call for help and the people they leave behind at home and in the community take great pride in their actions. We had a full crew onboard the lifeboat that day, each one of them focused on saving that young boy’s life.’

Portrush RNLI mechanic and Vellum recipient Dave Robinson added, ‘Receiving the RNLI Gallantry award from HRH the Duke of Kent was a huge honour and I felt I was receiving it on behalf of all the crew in Portrush RNLI. I remember that day so clearly and I knew that boy had only minutes left before he was in danger of drowning. I entered the water and trusted in my crew and my training and just went for it. That poor boy was exhausted when I reached him and the whole crew were elated that he was saved. I’m grateful for the Vellum and to receive it with my wife, Livvy, by my side.’

Among the awardees where the Coxswains of three Irish lifeboats Eamonn O’Rourke (Rosslare), Eugene Kehoe (Kilmore Quay) and Roy Abrahamsson (Dunmore East) who were all presented with Bronze Medals for Gallantry for their role in a rescue in October 2020 that saved nine lives and prevented a 100-metre cargo vessel, the Lily B, carrying 4,000 tonnes of coal, from hitting rocks at Hook Head. More info here

Coxswain Eamonn O’Rourke was also accorded a vellum for a rescue during Storm Ophelia in 2017 during conditions described by the crew as some of the worst they had ever witnessed. The crew battled 10-metre seas in force 12 conditions to save three lives. More information here

HRH The Duke of Kent has been President of the RNLI since 1969 after succeeding both his parents as President of the charity.

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The volunteer crew of the Bundoran RNLI Lifeboat was called into action on Friday afternoon 13th May to assist two male surfers in difficulty at Rossnowlagh Beach in County Donegal.

Just after 3:35 pm a number of 999 emergency calls were made to Malin Head Coast Guard from passers-by on Rossnowlagh Beach who had heard calls for help coming from the water.

The Bundoran RNLI crew, aboard the “William Henry Liddington” inshore lifeboat, launched minutes later and made their way to the scene.

Amid choppy conditions and a force 5 westerly wind, the lifeboat arrived at Rossnowlagh Beach around 4 pm. On arrival, the men had already been lifted from the water by the Sligo based Rescue 118 helicopter which had also been tasked to help. They were brought back to land where they were attended to by members of the National Ambulance Service.

Helm of the Bundoran RNLI Lifeboat Elliot Kearns, speaking on returning to the station, emphasised the importance of being aware of the surf and potential hazards ‘we would like to commend the Rescue 118 crew for their swift action in bringing the two men to safety. We would always advise water users to be aware of the sea conditions, particularly rip currents. If you find yourself caught in a rip, don’t try to swim against it, instead swim to the left or the right to get free of it.’

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On Sunday afternoon, 12 February, Valentia Coast Guard requested Lough Derg RNLI lifeboat to launch to investigate a report from a member of the public that a kayaker was in difficulty by Navigation Mark J, at the northern end of Lough Derg

At 3.40 pm the lifeboat launched with helm Keith Brennan, crew Owen Cavanagh, Chris Parker and Tom Hayes on board. Winds were south-westerly Force 4 and gusting. Visibility was good.

When the lifeboat arrived at Navigation Mark J, north of Gortmore, it began a thorough search of the area. From shore, two swimmers at Gortmore observed the lifeboat and called the RNLI boathouse in Dromineer, suspecting that the water-board which they had been using as a safety buoy may have caused alarm. The board was at the location at which the member of the public had thought they’d seen an upturned kayak.

Valentia Coast Guard were informed and the lifeboat was stood down.

The lifeboat departed the scene and was back at station at 4.50 pm.

Jeremy Freeman, Deputy Launching Authority at Lough Derg RNLI said ‘this was a false alarm but with good intent’. He says ‘if you see someone in difficulty in the water call 999 or 112 and ask for marine rescue. Stay safe and not to not enter the water yourself, too many people drown trying to save others.’

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Helvick Head RNLI of County Waterford came to the aid of two fishermen yesterday (Wednesday 12 January) after their 29ft fishing boat broke down at Ballyvoyle.

On what was described as a sunny and calm day on the water, the volunteer crew were requested to launch their inshore lifeboat by the Irish Coast Guard at 12.50 pm following a report that the vessel needed assistance at Ballyvoyle, close to Clonea beach.

Launching at 1.03 pm, the lifeboat helmed by Joe Foley and with crew members Alan Kelly, Shane Walsh and Liam Harty onboard, made its way to the scene arriving at 1.12 pm. 

Helvick Head RNLI with the fishing boat under towHelvick Head RNLI with the fishing boat under tow

The lifeboat crew assessed the situation and found the fishermen to be safe and well. As the boat had sustained engine failure, a decision was made to tow the vessel back to Helvick Head Pier where they arrived at 1.50 pm.

Speaking following the call out, Sean Walsh, Helvick Head RNLI Deputy Launching Authority said: ‘The casualties did the right thing by calling for help when they realised they were in difficulty.

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A Lough Derg “Lap the lake” 130 km cycle is raising funds for RNLI Lough Derg this May 

Starting and finishing at the well-known harbour of Dromineer, parking and showers will be available at nearby Lough Derg Yacht Club. 

Lough Derg is the third-biggest on the island of Ireland. It is a long, narrow lake, with shore roads in counties Clare, Galway, and Tipperary for the cyclists to navigate.

Event tickets are €65 per person and will include a t-shirt and goody bag. We would love participants to raise another €65 or more and donate a total of €130 for 130km. All funds raised go to Lough Derg RNLI. 

Bookings are now open for places here and download the poster below.

Lap the Lake” Cycle Will Raise Funds for RNLI

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A father and daughter who volunteer to save lives at sea with Howth RNLI and who will be on call over Christmas have asked the public to support the charity’s Christmas appeal. Stephen Harris has been a Deputy Launching Authority at the station since 2014 while his daughter Jen joined a month before the first lockdown. The busy lifeboat station has remained on call throughout the pandemic and the lifeboat crew will be ready to launch the lifeboats, as always, if they are needed.

With over 1,500 lifeboat volunteers around Ireland, each RNLI crew member signs up to save everyone from drowning – the charity’s mission since 1824. This Christmas many will leave loved ones behind to answer the call, each time hoping to reunite another family, and see those in trouble at sea safely returned.

Having returned from 6 months studying abroad in New Zealand Jen Harris joined the lifeboat crew in February 2020 only to see her training halted as the country went into lockdown. However, she stayed involved doing what training she could on land while the experienced lifeboat crew continued to respond to emergencies. When training restarted, she continued with her training plan and is now well on the way to being a fully-fledged lifeboat volunteer. No stranger to the water, Jen was a sailing and powerboat instructor when she was younger. On her return home to Ireland, she approached her dad about volunteering with the RNLI and had a chat to the lifeboat crew. She is currently trainee crew on Howth inshore lifeboat and is looking to be lifeboat crew on the All-Weather Lifeboat too. She is proudly following in her father Stephen’s footsteps as he was lifeboat crew in Dun Laoghaire from 1985 to 1987.

An archive photo from Dun Laoghaire RNLI featuring Stephen as volunteer lifeboat crew at the stationAn archive photo from Dun Laoghaire RNLI featuring Stephen as volunteer lifeboat crew at the station

Talking about her reason for volunteering with the RNLI Jen said, ‘I had been thinking about joining the lifeboat crew for a while. I’ve grown up around boats and I know how important the service the RNLI provides is to the community. The training I am undergoing is intense and it should be. It’s a massive commitment and one I’m happy to give and of course dad loves that I’m involved. The kit that we have and the level of training we receive is so impressive and it’s funded by generous donations. People can see where the money they give goes. There is a big orange boat sitting in the harbour and that’s our office. Everything we have is thanks to people supporting the charity.’

Dad Stephen is rightly proud of his daughter but it’s not surprising as they are two of a total of eight family members involved in the RNLI, with cousins at Dunmore East in County Waterford and Kilkeel in County Down. Stephen was lifeboat crew at Dun Laoghaire RNLI for three years before he moved away to Clontarf. Now living in Howth he was approached to join the station by the former Lifeboat Operations Manager Rupert Jeffares and joined as a Deputy Launching Authority.

Commenting on the Christmas appeal Stephen said, ‘The rescues we do would not be possible without donations from the RNLI’s generous supporters, helping to fund the essential kit, training and equipment needed by lifeboat crews all year round. This year my daughter is on the crew and will be out on rescues soon. Since I was a lifeboat volunteer, I’ve seen the RNLI’s equipment and lifeboat technology advance and evolve, keeping the lifesavers safe and helping them reach the casualties quickly. I’m proud to be involved and now a proud father of a lifesaver too.’

To donate to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal, visit: RNLI.org/Xmas

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Dunmore East RNLI’s Shannon Class lifeboat 13-41 ‘William and Agnes Wray’ officially went on service today (Saturday 6 November 2021). The Shannon class lifeboat arrived in Dunmore East Harbour on Sunday 26th September, and since then the volunteer lifeboat crew have trained tirelessly, becoming familiar with the new electronic technology and jet propulsion system of the vessel. The €2.4 million all-weather vessel is the first state of the art Shannon class lifeboat to be based in the south-east.

The Irish Coast Guard was informed by the RNLI that the ‘William and Agnes Wray’ is officially on service from 6 pm Saturday 6, November, replacing the station’s Trent class lifeboat.

"The €2.4m vessel is the first state of the art Shannon class lifeboat to be based in the south-east"

It’s a bittersweet moment for the lifeboat crew and fundraisers at Dunmore East RNLI, as the introduction of the Shannon class lifeboat signals the end of an era for the station’s current Trent class lifeboat, Elizabeth and Ronald, which has now departed Dunmore East harbour for the last time under the watchful eyes of a crowd who came to pay their respects and say goodbye. The lifeboat has been saving lives at sea there since October 1996.

Thankfully, it is not the end for Elizabeth and Ronald, as she will get an electronics upgrade and will go into the Trent class relief fleet for Ireland where she will continue to save lives at sea when and where ever she is needed.

Dunmore East RNLI Coxswain Roy Abrahamsson said ‘This week our crew were put through their paces by RNLI assessors where they demonstrated their ability to operate the new lifeboat effectively and safely. Everyone at the station is now ready and fully trained to operate this new lifeboat.’

‘The Shannon Class lifeboat is the most advanced lifeboat in the RNLI’s fleet, it means we can get to a casualty safer and faster than ever before. I am immensely proud of our volunteer crew who put in a huge effort by giving up their time and being away from their families to complete the training to enable the ‘William and Agnes Wray’ to go on service.’

"The Elizabeth and Ronald has served us well here in Dunmore East and she will be dearly missed"

The Shannon class lifeboat is the first modern all-weather lifeboat to be propelled by waterjets instead of traditional propellers, making it the most agile and manoeuvrable all-weather lifeboat in the RNLI’s fleet. The naming of the Shannon class of lifeboat follows a tradition of naming lifeboats after rivers but it's the first time an Irish river has been chosen and was done so to reflect the commitment and dedication of Irish lifeboat crew for generations.

Coxswain Abrahamsson continued ‘The Elizabeth and Ronald has served us well here in Dunmore East and she will be dearly missed, she is a fine lifeboat, and I am glad she will continue to save lives and serve the people of Ireland in the relief fleet’.

End of an era - the Waterford Harbour station’s current Trent class lifeboat, Elizabeth and Ronald has now departed Dunmore East harbour End of an era - the Waterford Harbour station’s current Trent class lifeboat, Elizabeth and Ronald has now departed Dunmore East harbour

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The Courtmacsherry All-Weather Trent Class RNLI Lifeboat was called out on Friday evening at 5.45 pm, to go to the immediate aid of a lone Kayaker that was spotted in trouble off the Old Head of Kinsale in West Cork.

The Courtmacsherry All Weather Lifeboat, Frederick Storey Cockburn under Coxswain Mark John Gannon and a crew of 6 were away quickly from their moorings, when Valentia Marine Rescue Co-Ordination Centre bleeped for immediate action after golfers on the Old Head of Kinsale Golf Links saw a person in trouble near the rocks on the western side of the Lighthouse.

The Kayaker had left The Speckled Door pier earlier in the afternoon and came through the passage at Hole-Open and was attempting to round the Lighthouse when the weather worsened and he was thrown off the Kayak and was unable to remount because of high swells. Thankfully the Golfers immediately called the rescue services and the Courtmacsherry RNLI Lifeboat and its voluntary crew were away within minutes. Reaching the area at 6.14 pm, two members of the crew, Ken Cashman and Donal Young used the Lifeboat’s small inflatable boat to traverse into the rocky inlet under the Lighthouse and pluck the causality from the water and brought him back to the main Lifeboat where he was assessed and warmed up after a very frightening ordeal.

Unfortunately, the Kayak could not be recovered and all his belongings including his mobile phone and keys were left to the mercy of the sea. The conditions at sea yesterday evening were 4 metre swells and a strong westerly wind.

The causality was then brought by the Lifeboat to the safe surrounds of the Courtmacsherry Pontoon and he was mighty glad to be on safe lands again. Crew and Station officers assessed him further at the Station House and provided him with a change of clothes and hot drinks before Station officers were able to take him back to meet his friends who came from North Cork to meet him. Also tasked in today’s Callout was the Coast Guard Rescue 117 Helicopter from Waterford and the Old Head / Seven Heads Coast Guard unit.

The Courtmacsherry RNLI Lifeboat voluntary Lifeboat Operations Manager Brian O Dwyer said “We are all so relieved that the Kayaker was rescued so quickly in rough seas off the Old Head this evening and praised the Golfers on the Old Head for making that quick 999 call when they realised something was amiss”, he also thanked the voluntary crew at the Lifeboat Station who quickly assembled and with great skill that they regularly train for, prevented a very serious incident at sea.

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Achill Island RNLI was involved in the medical evacuation of a female patient from Clare Island this afternoon (Tuesday, 7 September) following a request from the Irish Coast Guard.

The volunteer crew launched their all-weather lifeboat at 1.15 pm under Coxswain Dave Curtis and with six crew members onboard. It followed a request to assist the Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 118 from Sligo, due to foggy weather conditions on the island at the time.

Weather conditions improved during the call out and the crew were able to secure a zone for the helicopter to successfully land and take the patient onboard the aircraft. The patient was then transferred to Mayo University Hospital and the all-weather lifeboat, The Sam and Ada Moody, and her crew returned to Achill Island at 3pm.

Speaking following the call out, Dave Curtis, Coxswain said: ‘This is another example of good inter-agency teamwork between our colleagues in the Irish Coast Guard and our volunteer crew. We wish the patient well for a speedy recovery.’

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