Union Hall gets state-of-the-art lifeboat thanks to  generosity of West Cork couple

Dr Raymond Fielding and his wife Christine funded the lifeboat and, while they did not live to see it put into service, Dr Fielding asked that the life-saving vessel bear both their names
Union Hall gets state-of-the-art lifeboat thanks to  generosity of West Cork couple

Chris Collins, one of the helms for the Christine and Raymond Fielding lifeboat, pours Champagne over the bow of the boat at the naming ceremony and service of dedication. Picture: Andrew Harris

A West Cork community steeped in marine heritage, tragedy, and triumph has officially handed over a world-class lifeboat, which has been named after a revered local couple, to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

A special ceremony was held at the weekend by Union Hall RNLI members for their Atlantic 85 lifeboat, which is named the Christine and Raymond Fielding.

Fastest in fleet

The Atlantic 85 class lifeboat is said to be one of the fastest vessels in the fleet since it went into operation last summer. The naming ceremony was held back until the community could come together to celebrate the lives of the Fieldings.

Dr Raymond Fielding and his wife Christine funded the lifeboat and, while they did not live to see it put into service, Dr Fielding asked that the life-saving vessel bear both their names, the RNLI said.

Dr Fielding who died in 2016 aged 80, was a member of the Royal Munster Yacht Club at Crosshaven since 1956, as well as a member of the Irish Cruising Club. Ms Fielding, who died three years before her husband, was also a keen sailor and philanthropist.

Designed to operate in shallower water, the vessel can handle challenging open-sea conditions, the RNLI said. 

It is ideal for rescues close to shore, near cliffs and rocks, and areas inaccessible to all-weather lifeboats

As well as the local sailing legend funding the provision of two Toppers and two Topaz Unos in Crosshaven for young people, Dr Fielding worked to ensure that Glandore Harbour acquired its own in-shore rescue boat in the wake of the Tit Bonhomme trawler tragedy in 2012.

Local campaign

The drowning of five men in the tragedy at the mouth of Glandore Bay prompted a concerted local campaign to secure a lifeboat service in Union Hall. Representations were made to the RNLI in February 2013 and, following several meetings, sanction was given to establish a two-year trial service.

The station has since become a vital part of the community in West Cork. Since it opened in 2014, Union Hall RNLI has launched 68 times and brought 98 people to safety.

The Christine and Raymond Fielding lifeboat replaces the Atlantic 75 lifeboat, Margaret Bench of Solihull, which was in service since 2017. Before this, the lifeboat Maritime Nation was in service from 2014. Both lifeboats came from the RNLI’s relief fleet, making the Christine and Raymond Fielding the first lifeboat to be built especially for service at Union Hall RNLI. 

Special occasion

Union Hall RNLI lifeboat operations manager John Kelleher said: "This is a very special occasion for our station. As well as giving us the opportunity to give thanks to our donor and acknowledge this wonderful couple, we want to share this day with our community and to thank them for their continued support.

While we have seen a fair share of tragedy in our maritime community in this part of the world, the arrival of a new lifeboat is a beacon of hope and an investment in life saving

"Our lifeboat crew, shore crew, station management, and our fundraisers are all volunteers who are united in the goal of keeping our community safe and working together to prevent drowning. We look forward to a day of celebration."

In accepting the lifeboat on behalf of the station, deputy launching authority Peter Deasy said: "While we’re sad to say farewell to our former lifeboat Margaret Bench of Solihull, which has served the station faithfully for five years, we look forward to writing a new chapter in the station’s history with the arrival of this new Atlantic class lifeboat."

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