Cecilia Uí Dhrisceoil and her daughter Niamh were among hundreds of people who lined Baltimore pier yesterday to welcome the new €3m lifeboat, named Alan Massey, to its new home.
Cecilia, who has lived on Cape Clear for almost 40 years, was pregnant with Niamh when she went into labour early on St Stephen’s Day, 1985.
A storm prevented the island ferry from operating and Cecilia was medivaced by the lifeboat. “It’s a day I’ll never forget,” Cecilia said. “We seemed to be surrounded by high waves the entire journey but the crew was highly professional and reassured me the whole time.”
Once they got Cecilia to the mainland, she was rushed to St Finbarr’s Hospital in Cork city, where Niamh was delivered several hours later.
“It is most reassuring to know we have such a fabulous and professional rescue service on standby for us all the time,” Cecilia said.
“The spirit of the volunteers has to be praised. This new vessel will give everyone along the coast, but especially islanders, an enormous sense of security and reassurance.”
Niamh, who teaches in Coláiste Choilm in Ballincollig, said: “The lifeboat crew is every emergency service for us — fire brigade, doctor, ambulance.
“This state-of-the-art vessel is so fast. And in emergencies, time is of the essence.”
Niamh’s godfather, the late Noel Cottrell, was crewing on the lifeboat the day she was born. Her three cousins are volunteers on the lifeboat crew today.
It was an emotional day too for Pat Hederman, 81, who was second mechanic on the Baltimore lifeboat Shamrock from 1949 to the mid-1950s, before he moved to work in Cobh.
“I’m a bit overawed really. It’s a very nostalgic trip for me today,” he said as he toured the new boat.
“This boat is light years ahead — a vast improvement in everything.”