Spiritual home beckons for storied Mary Stanford lifeboat

She was awarded a royal gold medal for gallantry for her heroic role in a legendary sea rescue.

Her name is steeped in tragedy and triumph.

Now, the fishing village where she made her name is setting out to save her from an uncertain future and bring her home.

The Mary Stanford lifeboat, which was based in Ballycotton, in East Cork, in the last century, was the first lifeboat in RNLI history to be awarded a gold medal for gallantry for her role in the famous Daunt Lightship rescue in 1936.

Despite her illustrious past, she languishes at a quay in Dublin’s Grand Canal Dock, and could be scuttled unless she is thrown a lifeline.

“She is a huge part of Ballycotton history and we want to give her a place of pride in the village,” said Stephen Belton, a member of the local committee trying to save her. “Members of the community, including relatives of the heroic Mary Stanford coxswain, Patrick ‘Patsy’ Sliney, are teaming up try to bring her home and we are pooling our resources.

“We joined forces earlier this year to launch the first Seafood and Shanty Ballycotton Weekend and now we want to galvanise everyone again to get Mary back.”

The Mary Stanford is in serious disrepair. Surveys are being undertaken to establish how much restoration work she needs. The committee are hoping to raise enough to restore her, and install her on a cement plinth near the entrance to the Ballycotton cliff walk.

The committee will launch an appeal tomorrow for donations to help fund the project.

The Mary Stanford was Ballycotton’s lifeboat from 1930 to 1959 and was called out on 41 ‘shouts’, saving 122 lives.

The Daunt Lightship rescue on Feb 11, 1936, was her most famous mission. Four days earlier, a south-eastern gale, with rain and snow, developed into a hurricane.

At 8am the next morning, an SOS was received: the LV Comet, which had been on station at Daunt Rock, had broken her moorings and was drifting.

Despite horrendous conditions, and without waiting for orders, Mr Sliney launched the Mary Stanford.

He and his crew made several attempts to get a steel cable aboard the Comet, but huge waves forced the ships apart and snapped the cable.

When darkness fell, the lifeboat headed for Cobh to get stronger cables, and the exhausted crew rested for just three hours.

They returned to Daunt Rock early the next morning, but thick fog prevented a rescue. That evening, the storm increased and the Comet drifted within 60 yards of Daunt Rock.

Mr Sliney decided that, despite the mountainous waves, the only option was to try to get his vessel alongside the Comet in the hope her crew could jump for the lifeboat.

After five attempts to come alongside, five of the Comet’s crew had jumped to safety but two were still stuck on board, too exhausted to jump.

The Mary Stanford came alongside for a sixth time, and the RNLI crew dragged the two men aboard.

A gold medal was awarded to Mr Sliney, silver medals to second coxswain John Lane Walsh and motor mechanic Thomas Sliney, and bronze medals to crew members Michael Coffey Walsh, John Shea Sliney, William Sliney, and Thomas Walsh for the rescue.


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