The new head of the RNLI visited Union Hall on the south coast yesterday to see where the port’s new lifeboat service is to be trialled over the next two years.
Charles Hunter-Pease, who is on his first official visit to Ireland, was shown where the vessel will be based, and the area it will cover, by members of the local committee which lobbied for it following the Tit Bonhomme disaster.
And retired radiologist Dr Raymond Fielding from Monkstown, Co Cork, has pledged to help fund a lifeboat service if the trial is successful, in memory of his wife, Christine, who died last year.
“One of my ambitions in life was to leave a lifeboat after me and I had originally planned to pay for it in my will,” he said.
“But when my wife died, I decided I better get going and do something about it, because there would be no one around to do it if I died.”
Five men died when the fishing vessel went down at the mouth of Glandore Bay, within sight of Union Hall pier, on Jan 15, 2012.
Within months, a committee led by Paddy O’Donovan had prepared a submission for the RNLI outlining the need for a dedicated lifeboat service.
Mr Hunter-Pease told committee members yesterday that he was at the trustees’ meeting in England last week which gave unanimous approval for a two-year lifeboat trial in Union Hall, and then phoned the news to the committee in Cork.
“I am aware of the amount of time and work that was put in to the committee’s presentation. I am also aware of the importance of the phone call which was made to the committee at the end of our meeting,” he said.
He praised the people of Union Hall and Glandore who have already pledged their fundraising support for a lifeboat service in the long-term, and the trial in the short-term — which will cost in the region of €130,000 — describing them as “heroes” of the RNLI’s fundraising family.
Mr O’Donovan said the community is over the moon about the announcement, and that plans are well under way to ensure the trial starts soon. Crew training is due to begin at the RNLI’s central training headquarters in Poole in England, just after Christmas with a view to the service being declared an asset of the Coast Guard by next June.
The station, which will be based in temporary facilities on the pier in Keelbeg, will operate a powerful RNLI B Class lifeboat, drawn from the charity’s relief fleet.
It will work closely with the RNLI lifeboat stations at Baltimore and Courtmacsherry which boast long range all-weather craft.
Mr Hunter-Pease’s visit to Ireland will also include visits to RNLI bases at Kinsale, Courtmacsherry, Baltimore, Valentia, Fenit, Lough Derg, and Dublin.
Meanwhile, the RNLI has appealed for people to help its Reindeer Runs fundraiser in Dublin and Cork this year.
Fota House and Gardens in Cork will host a 5km and 10km walk or run, and a 1km Santa Saunter for younger participants on Sunday, Nov 24.
Last summer, the RNLI recorded a 43% increase in the number of callouts.
* For more information, log on to rnli.org/reindeer or email email@example.com
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