Saturday 19 October 2019

Henry's wishes honoured at RNLI lifeboat unveiling

The late Henry Tomkins
The late Henry Tomkins

Simon Bourke

The wishes of the late Henry Tomkins were honoured at the unveiling of a new RNLI lifeboat in County Louth at the weekend.

The Shannon class lifeboat was largely funded by a legacy from Mr Tomkins and is named after Michael O'Brien, a former lifeboat Coxswain with Arklow RNLI, and friend of the Gorey farmer.

A special ceremony at Clogherhead lifeboat station saw hundreds of people turn up to witness the service of naming and dedication for the new lifeboat, which is the first permanent Shannon class lifeboat on the east coast of Ireland.

The lifeboat was officially named by Mr Tomkin's first cousin Roy Hill, and his wife Barbara. Having climbed some steps, they then poured whiskey over the bow of the boat, christening it the Michael O'Brien.

Henry's nieces were also present as were many members from Arklow RNLI.

Discussing his late cousin, Roy Hill said, 'Henry grew up on a small farm in county Wexford. He was a rather unique character in many ways. Although he never travelled out of Ireland, he was very knowledgeable of world affairs. He was a very kind man, quick to help anyone he came across in difficulty. His interest in lifeboats was probably due to his mother's influence, who became a lifelong member of the RNLI. He regularly visited lifeboat stations along the southeast coast, often bringing homemade biscuits from his mother.

'It was in Arklow that he got to know Michael O'Brien and whom he wished this magnificent boat to be named after. Henry admired him as a brave and fearless Coxswain and a humble man. He wanted him to be honoured in this way,' said Mr Hill.

Mr. David Delamer, Chairperson of the RNLI Irish Council represented the RNLI at the ceremony and accepted the lifeboat into the care of the Institution before passing it into the safe keeping of the station.

Speaking at Saturday's lifeboat naming ceremony, Tomás Whelehan, Clogherhead RNLI Lifeboat Coxswain said: 'We are extremely grateful to all those who have donated towards this lifeboat and our strengthened connection with Arklow lifeboat station. We are especially delighted with our new friendship with Barbara and Roy and the friends of Henry Tomkin's here today.

'This Shannon class lifeboat means that we now have the latest and finest rescue equipment available.

'I know that when our volunteer crews head out to sea that our loved ones all have peace of mind that this lifeboat will keep them safe.'

Clogherhead RNLI's Shannon class lifeboat is unique in the RNLI 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 of lifeboat to be called after an Irish river.

Gorey Guardian