Wednesday 19 June 2019

'Michael O'Brien' makes his arrival!

Paddy Hodgins was delighted to see the new lifeboat arrive on Sunday
Paddy Hodgins was delighted to see the new lifeboat arrive on Sunday

Hubert Murphy

Thousands turned out to welcome Clogherhead's newest 'resident' last Sunday - a lifeboat called Michael O'Brien.

Clogherhead RNLI's Shannon class lifeboat is unique in the RNLI's fleet as it has been funded by an Irish legacy, named after an Irish lifeboat volunteer, designed by an Irish engineer and is the first class to be called after an Irish river. The Michael O'Brien Shannon class lifeboat arrived to a sunny Clogherhead at exactly 13.31 hours, the operational number of the lifeboat.

The Shannon lifeboat is the latest in a long line of boats provided by the RNLI to Clogherhead over the past 120 years. The €2.5 million lifeboat and its launching rig represents a major investment by the RNLI in the station and moves it from a 15-knot lifeboat to a 25-knot one, cutting vital minutes off the time it takes for the lifeboat crew to reach a casualty.

A significant proportion of the funding for the Clogherhead lifeboat has been provided through a generous legacy by Wexford farmer, Mr. Henry Tomkins, who was a lifelong supporter of the RNLI.

Henry stipulated that a lifeboat be named for his long-time friend, the former Arklow RNLI Coxswain, Mr. Michael O'Brien. The Shannon lifeboat was designed by Derry man Peter Eyre who as child was rescued by Lough Swilly RNLI in Donegal.

The new lifeboat arrived at Clogherhead after leaving Poole in Dorset earlier in the week. On its way to its new home the lifeboat crew stopped in Brixham, Newlyn, Milford Haven, Howth and Arklow, the latter as a tribute to the man who the lifeboat is named in honour of.

Approaching the beach at Clogherhead, the vessel was flanked by lifeboats from neighbouring RNLI stations, Howth, Skerries and Kilkeel, who created a flotilla for the watching crowds.

The new lifeboat is jet driven which gives the vessel increased manoeuvrability. It will also be the first time in Ireland that the RNLI will use a SLARS (Shannon Launch and Recovery System) to launch and recover a lifeboat. The SLARS acts as a mobile slipway for the lifeboat and has a unique turntable cradle, which can rotate the lifeboat 180%, ready to be launched again within ten minutes.

Clogherhead RNLI Coxswain Tomás Whelahan said, ' We were thrilled with the welcome we received on our journey home in our new Shannon class lifeboat. I want to thank the many people who came down to Clogherhead to see our arrival, which made it an incredibly special homecoming. We have had a great week with the new lifeboat, getting to know it and seeing what it can do on the open sea. It is a wonderful piece of kit, very different to our Mersey class lifeboat, faster and more technologically advanced.'

Paddy Hodgins, who was involved with the lifeboats for 42 years when he was Clogherhead Harbour Master, was on hand to welcome the new vessel.

'It's a proud day for Clogherhead,' he remarked.

Drogheda Independent