History of Skerries Lifeboat

Skerries has a long tradition with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and like Balbriggan, Rush and Loughshinny, it has had its fair share of shipwrecks, disaster and tragedy over hundreds of years just off our shores.

The British Coastguard service had up to two hundred coastguard stations around our coasts. At each station they kept a boat which was frequently used for rescue. At the Coastguard station they also had a rocket-firing apparatus which was a means of connecting a line from the shore to the vessel in difficulty thus allowing a breeches bouy to be set up. This system saved many lives. The Coastguards also recorded wrecks.

The Royal National Life Boat Institution (RNLI) was founded in 1824 by Sir William Hilary who was himself a lifeboat man. There were several individual lifeboat societies at that time around the coasts. Hilary recognised the need for a national co-ordinating body. The RNLI is a voluntary organisation which exists to save lives at sea. It is the oldest national lifeboat service in the world with over two hundred and twenty lifeboat lifeboat stations strategically placed around the coasts of Ireland and UK.

The RNLI was established in Skerries in 1854, the station closed in 1930 and it was re-opened in 1981 and is still very much operational today. Prior to 1854 a lifeboat designed by James and Edward Rellew Plerty was stationed at Skerries. It was sent by the Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwrecks (R.N.I.P.L.S.), later to be called RNLI. The lifeboat came to Skerries in 1833 on the authority of James Dombrain, coastguard official for Ireland. She was 24 ft long, 8 ft wide and weighted one and a half tons. She also carried eight oars and one sail. The cost was £130-00-00 and was crewed by 9 people. The boat was on station between 1833 and 1838.

March 1854
The Skerries Lifeboat house was constructed at the harbour at a cost of £98.18.07. It was to house a 29’ 1” long 7’ 9” wide and 3’ 9” deep lifeboat. The lifeboat was designed by James Peake and build by Forrestt, Limehouse. She would crew ten people, had ten oars and rigged with fore and mizzen lugsail and steered by means of a sweep oar. The lifeboat weighed two tons and cost £142.10.00. The RNLI paid half and the rest was met by the local committee which consisted of the gentry, farmers and coastguard officers of the district.

December 19th, 1853
On December 19th, 1853, the brig “Agnes of Whitehaven” was wrecked at Benhead between Balbriggan and Drogheda. With no lifeboat every reason was believed that not only would the vessel be lost but also everyone on board would perish. A lifeboat was procured from Dublin on 21st December by a Mr H.A. Hamilton of Balbriggan. Before its arrival, Mr Hamilton was going to attempt to go out in his own boat. Mr Hamilton went in the lifeboat with three other people from Balbriggan, one from Skerries and an American, who happened to be on the spot at the time of the launch. At their first attempt they could not reach the “Agnes” due to the strong winds and heavy seas and had to return to shore. They made a second attempt at 7.30pm and reached “Agnes” saving the lives of the master and two seamen who had been in the fore-top for 36 hours. Two men and a boy perished, the boy dying minutes before the lifeboat could reach him. A silver medal was awarded to Mr Hamilton. It is probably due to this tragedy that the Skerries station was re-opened.

October 19th, 1858
The Mary of Carnavon was wrecked off Balbriggan. The Lifeboat was crewed by Skerries and Balbriggan coastguards. They made two attempts to reach the schooner but failed. A fisherman from Balbriggan, Mr James Carton and his three sons, James jnr, Peter and John, along with Mark Carton (brother of James senior) and Thomas Walsh, rowed out themselves in their own boat and performed a gallant rescue. They rescued the Captain, three crew and a baby. The schooner went to pieces shortly after.

November 16th, 17th and 18th, 1858
On 14th November 1859, the Austrian brig, “Tregiste of Trieste” anchored for shelter during a terrific gale from the East. They anchored under Lambay Island. On the 15th, she dragged her anchor nearly half way across the sound between the island and the mainland. The brig was in imminent danger of driving onshore onto the Portrane rocks, orders were given to cut her masts. The Skerries lifeboat was transported by carriage drawn by six horses and launched at about 2pm from the South Strand at Rush. Joseph Clarke was the Coxwain, H.A. Hamilton, who was the Hon. Secretary, also went out in the lifeboat. The lifeboat was propelled by ten oars (two men per oar). As they got out into deep water the lifeboat shipped very heavy seas and the crew were nearly washed overboard. After two hours of fruitless exertion to reach the vessel, the lifeboat crew were so fatigued that it became necessary to return to the shore as the lifeboat could itself be driven onto the rocks. Mr. Hamilton directed the Coxwain to bear up for the entrance to Rogerstown Harbour at 5.30pm. The Lifeboat was kept afloat in the river at Rogerstown and the crew was located in the coastguard watch-house. Food and dry clothes were provided by Mr. Hamilton.

On the 16th a large steamer which had been sent for from Holyhead bore down towards the distressed vessel to see if possible to take the men off the boat. With the heavy seas running she was unable to get close enough and had to give up the attempt. The steamer went to Kingstown Harbour after having to slip the cables and leaving her anchors behind.

During the night the crew of the “Tregiste” were seen working hard at the pumps. At 3 o’clock in the morning on the 17th the wind began to drop and preparations were made for another attempt to reach the ship. At 4.30am the lifeboat launched with the same crew. For the first hour the lifeboat took some heavy battering, but after about tow and a half hours the lifeboat reached the “Tregiste”, thirteen people were safely taken onto the lifeboat from the stern of the brig and landed at Rogerstown at 9.30am. The “Tregiste” rode out the gale and was subsequently towed to Kingstown. Mr Hamilton was awarded the Gold Medal for this unusual gallant service.

April 28th 1859
The French Barque Azales of Nantes ran ashore on the rocks off Skerries during a very strong gale. Seaman Alexander Bain was awarded a Silver Medal. He gallantly waded into the surf putting his own life at risk and conveyed a line to the vessel enabling the crew of three to be saved.

In 1859 a new lifeboat called “Admiral Mitchell” was launched at Skerries. It was the design of James Peake and also built by Forress Limehouse. The lifeboat cost £135.00.00 and was a gift of Mrs B. Wood of Eltham. The “Admiral Mitchell” was a 30’ long, 6’3” wide and she carried six oars and crewed eight people.

February 9th 1861
The schooner Margaret Anne of Preston, laden with coal was driven ashore north of the harbour at Skerries in a strong easterly gale. The Skerries lifeboat launched immediately and went to the Schooner, rescuing four crew and landing them ashore. On the same afternoon the Smack “Gipsy of Newry” also coal laden, was driven onto the rocks on the north side of Colt Island. The lifeboat again put off and after a hard row took off her crew of four. The master of the boat had his leg broken and died shortly after been landed.

December 3rd 1863
In a strong gale a lugger “Vigilant of Peel” was seen to be hoisting signals of distress. The lifeboat launched immediately and rowed for one and half hours before it reached the lugger. The lifeboat put four crewmen onboard the “Vigilant” to assist her crew and help to get the vessel underway. The “Viligant” sailed safely back to Skerries.

In 1866 – Alterations to Station
In 1886 alterations were made to the lifeboat house, at a cost of £80.00.00. The alterations were necessary to house a bigger lifeboat. The second “Admiral Mitchell” was 2 ‘larger and nearly 2’ wider than the previous boat. The new lifeboat was again a gift from Mrs B. Wood of Eltham, built by Forrestt Limehouse in 1857 at a cost of £172.00.00 and she had ten oars and crewed thirteen people.

January 3rd 1866
January 3rd 1866, the Skerries lifeboat launched to the assistance of Barque “Lymon Carn” and brought one person ashore. The cost of the service was £5.3s.6d.

April 8th 1867
April 8th 1867, the Skerries lifeboat launched and went to the assistance of the brig “Mary of Workington” which was lying between Loughshinny and Lambay Island. The lifeboat brought a message ashore for a stem tug.

January 2nd 1868
The Skerries lifeboat launched in a strong gale to the assistance of schooner “Anne of Aberystwyth” near Balbriggan, which was in danger. The lifeboat rescued four crew. The cost of the service was £140.04.00.

February 1st 1873
The Skerries lifeboat launched on service to the schooner “Sara of Runcorn”. That night at about 8.45 pm, the coastguard on duty at Balbriggan observed a schooner about half a mile off shore. She was rolling heavily with the wind behind. An hour later the schooner got into difficulty. The chief officers of the coastguard, Mr Dalton, sent one of his men to Skerries to call out the lifeboat. In the meantime, Mr Dalton went to the shore with other men to give whatever assistance he could to the crew of the schooner which was starting to break up. A rocket apparatus was set up between land and schooner and breeches buoy was established. The schooner moved into the heavy seas and the link between the land and vessel was broken. During this time the Skerries lifeboat was making its way through snow and gales of wind towards the schooner. The lifeboat was under sail and was manned by the coastguard sent from Balbriggan. His name was Lott Smye. Four coastguard men of the Skerries station and five Skerries Volunteers manned the lifeboat. The lifeboat ran down under sail towards the schooner. Before getting into broken water she took in her sail and started row. The seas were so strong that the oars were wrenched from the crews hands. Some oars were broken and lost. As it was impossible to retain any command of the lifeboat she dropped her anchors. She then rode safely for about an hour until the force of the tide set her broadside to the waves capsizing the lifeboat and carrying seven of her crew away. One of these, the coxswain succeeded in getting back to the lifeboat and was helped into her by the three remaining crew. The lifeboat fortunately being self righting. The lifeboat capsizes a second time and with three men going round in her –the fourth supported by his lifebjacket was brought to the shore. The men on board the boat were too exhausted to take him into the lifeboat and so secured him by a line to the lifeboats side. The lifeboat was rapidly carried ashore without any further loss of life. The five Skerries Volunteers who were drowned were Patrick Reid, James Kelly, William Fitzpatrick, Joseph Halpin, Rich Cochrane. Coastguard Albert Fanning was also drowned. They were remembered on a grave stone in the Holmpatrick Cemetery in Skerries. Coastguards, Lott Smye, William Scartlebury, Robert Ellison and Thomas Woodley survived. The Sarah of Runcorn became a total wreck and allon board perished.

December 1873
Ten months after the tragedy of the Sarah of Runcorn and the loss of the lifeboat men a new lifeboat “The Laura Platt” was stationed at Skerries. The new lifeboat was 33’ long and 8’6” wide. It also came with a transporting carriage. The new and old boats were conveyed free of charge between London and Dublin by the British and Irish Steam Packet Company. A similar favour was granted them between Dublin and Skerries by the Dublin and Drogheda Railway Company. The new lifeboat and equipment were presented to the Institution by Mr Thomas Platt of Padfield, Derbyshire. The lifeboat aat his request being named the “Laura Platt” after his daughter. The Laura Platt could crew thirteen people, had ten oars and cost £323.12.00. She was built in 1873 by Forrestt Limehouse.

Two years after the Laura Platt was stationed in Skerries, the Barque, Belle Hill was wrecked off Balbriggan with a great loss of life. It happened on February 26th 1875. The coastguard at Balbriggan attempted to connect a rocket apparatus from the shore to the Belle Hill. Unfortunately, the rescue line continually snagged on the rocks. The Skerries Lifeboat, Laura Platt, was sent for. The Lifeboat was drawn by horses to Balbriggan to Kings Lane but not able to negotiate the low railway bridge and was not able to launch at all. James McDonnell, the only survivor, recovered in the local hotel and later gave evidence at an inquest. The rest of the crew of fifteen perished.

April 1875

A Lifeboat house costing £310.00.00 and a slipway costing £127.00.00 was built at Balbriggan. A new lifeboat called “Maid of Annan” was also stationed at Balbriggan in 1875. The whole expense was met by Ms Sarah Langworthy of Manchester. “Maid of Annan” was 30’ long and 6’6” wide, had six oars and crewed eight. The lifeboat cost £248.150.00. She was built by Woolfe Shadwell. In 1889 alterations were made to the station to facilitate a larger lifeboat at a cost of £277.3.4. The RNLI decided to close the station in 1898. The Honorary Secretary of Balbriggan was Mr H A Hamilton and the coxswain was Mr Richard Tuite. No service record.

January 1877
A silver medal and thanks inscribed on Vellum was awarded to Mr John Payne, chief of the coastguard service at Skerries for the part he played when the Smack “Falcon of Skerries” was wrecked at Skerries in an East South East Gale with a very heavy sea. At great personal risk, he swam twice to the aid of the crew of the wrecked vessel whereby he was successful in rescuing one man who was unconscious.

April 16th 1877
At 3pm the Schooner “Isabella of Portmadoc” bound from London to Dundalk was observed to part from her anchors and drive towards the rocks at Skerries. A strong gale from the South East was blowing with heavy seas. In anticipation of this disaster the crew of the Laura Platt had been in readiness for some hours. They used every effort to get the lifeboat afloat as quickly as possible aided by numerous people. It was difficult to launch the lifeboat owing to the low tide. The lifeboat was afloat by 3.15pm and got close enough to the “Isabella” to haul the crew aboard. By 4.30pm the last of the five crew of the schooner was taken aboard the lifeboat. Shortly after they were landed ashore, the schooner broke up.

January 7th 1879
The Laura Platt was launched in reply to signals of distress during a strong south east gale and saved the crew of three men from the schoonery “Elsmore of Runcorn”. The same day the Laura Platt saved six men from the brig “Lady Lifford of Ardrossan”. Both vessels were on the less shore, the brig was later wrecked to the north of the lifeboat station.

October 14th 1881
The schooner “William of Dublin” bound from Swansea to Ardrossan with a cargo of coal and having a crew of five sought shelter in Skerries Bay. A gale was blowing from the North West. When the weather moderated for a time three of the crew of the schooner came ashore. Shortly afterwards the wind increased and the schooner made for the harbour, but was blown beyond the point of shelter and stranded. The two remaining crew were in danger. A rocket firing apparatus was put in use but not successful. The Laura Platt with Mr Thomas Elmore, Chief Officer of the coastguard on board proceeded to the schooner and brought the two men ashore.

October 24th 1881
Barque “S Vaughan of Windsor” got into difficult off Balbriggan in a north east gale. On the 23rd October, the Laura Platt could not reach the barque. On the 24th October, the lifeboat brought ashore a telegram to agents for a tug from Liverpool. The lifeboat capsized on its way back. A trawler was hired by Mr H A Hamilton at his own expense to tow the lifeboat in. The cost of this service being £8.2.6 plus additional award to thirteen crewmen.

November 5th 1875
The ketch “Emily Wynee” of and for Wexford from Qyr with a cargo of coal anchored in Skerries from a South East gale showed signals of distress. The Laura Platt launched at 8.30 proceeded to the vessel and brought ashore her crew of four men.

In 1887
Two specimen lifebelts with new plans of fastening them to the body were sent to the station for trial. One was in the form of a waistcoat and the other fastened by means of straps and buckles.

In 1888 – New Lifeboat
A new boat called “Sir Edward Blakeney” was stationed at Skerries. She was 34’ long and 8’ wide. She had ten oars and thirteen of a crew. The coast of the lifeboat was £433.12.00. She was built by Ed and Symes. It was a legacy from Dr M. M. Mahoney, Chelsea. Sr Edward Blakeney did not launch on service.

1902 – New Lifeboat Station
In 1902 the new lifeboat station was constructed at a cost of £767.17.10 to house a new lifeboat called “William Maynard”. The cost of the lifeboat being £921.00.00 was a legacy of W.S.F Maynard, Cressingham. The boat was built in 1902 by Thames I W Blackwell. She was 35 foot long, 10 foot wide, crewed 15 people and had 12 oars. Her first service was on December 9th 1904 when she launched to the assistance of schooner Agnes of Drogheda (Port of Register, Preston). The schooner under the command of Captain Heaney bound from Drogheda to Preston with a cargo of oatmeal anchored in a dangerous position east of Skerries harbour. At ten o’clock the wind and sea became violent and the vessel showed signals of distress. The Honorary Secretary, Mr Joe May at once ordered the lifeboat to be launched. The lifeboat on arrival at the vessel was asked by the captain for assistance to get his ship to safety. The coxswain Samuel Evans put four of his crew on board and then stood by until the ship was safely moored in the harbour.

March 6th 1908
At about 9.00 am during a north east gale, signals of distress were observed from the Brigantine “Walter J Cummins” of Irvine which was anchored one and a half miles North East of Skerries. The William Maynard launched and proceeded to the Brigantine. As the vessel was in a dangerous position, the lifeboat took the crew of five men on board and landed safely ashore at 11.45am.

March 18th 1909
Signals of distress were observed from the schooner “Coniston of Barrow” at about 9.30 am. The vessel was lying at anchor off Skerries. The cozwain fo the lifeboat Samuel Evans, launched the lifeboat and made his way with full crew to the schooner. The lifeboat rescued four men and landed them safely ashore. The vessel was left on her anchor to ride out the gale.

December 1914
A French Barquentine “Amendee” was thought to be in difficulty between Roackabill Lighthouse and Lambay Island. The Honorary Secretary, Mr Joseph Dollard decided to have the lifeboat launched. There were numerous volunteers. The following went out in the lifeboat: John Curry, William Shiels, Joseph Beggs, Matt Ryan, P Gargan, Michael Daly, P Falham, M Gargan, William Boylan, Patrick Owens, George Garland, Michael Sloan, George Ferguson, and J Curry. The ship was about seven miles off with a raging sea between them. Later the lifeboat and ship were out of sight. At 3.30 pm the lifeboat was seen regturning with no additional people on board. The captain of the “Amendee” refused assistance in broken English. The vessel was damaged with no mainsail and the bulwarks were torn away. The lifeboat returned to Skerries.

November 17th 1916
The “William Maynard” launched to th assistance of schooner “Village Belle” of Dublin was in difficulty two hundred metres North West of Skerries Pier. The lifeboat launched at 11.00 am with a full crew under oars. It was very cold with full North Easterly gale. The lifeboat took four people from the schooner and landed them ashore. The cost of the service was £14.7.00 = 15 men at 15 shillings and six pence; 21 helpers at 3 shillings, 1 helper at four shillings and six pence and one signal man from four shillings and six pence.

November 24th 1930
The Skerries Lifeboat “William Maynard” performed its last service before the lifeboat station closed in 1930. The lifeboat went to the assistance of the ketch “Ivy P” of Ipswich which was in danger of foundering in a moderate gale with a heavy sea running. She was on passage from Garston to Roscarberry, Co. Cork with a cargo of coal. The ketch was dragging her anchors and seemed to be leaking. The lifeboat rescued the four crew men on board and later when the weather moderated the “William Maynard” towed the ketch into the harbour. Mr Duignan, Civic Guard of the Irish Free State assisted and went out in the lifeboat. They received the same monetary award which was made to each crew but he returned the money to the Institution.

The Skerries Lifeboat Station closed in 1930 probably due to the placing of a Motor Boat at Howth.

During the 1950’s Mrs Mc Master organised the annual lifeboat Flag Day collection, with the help of volunteers kept the fund-raising ticking over. In 1967 Leo Cody was appointed Honorary Secretary of the Skerries Fund-raising Branch by Colonel Brian Clarke who was head of the RNLI fund-raising for Ireland. In Leo’s first year the branch raised £16.00.00. The following year Gerry Grimes was appointed Honorary Treasurer of the Skerries Branch.

In 1970 a small fund-raising branch was established. Joe Plunkett, Chairman, Jack Doyle took over as Honorary Secretary as Leo worked at sea. Gerry Grimes, Sam Shiels and Leo Cody were Committee. With so many sea-related accidents the committee and the fishing community recognised the need for some type of lifeboat. It was hoped that fund-raising for the RNLI would encourage them to re-open the lifeboat station. All swimming and boating accidents were noted and fund-raising continued to improve. The committee realised the need for help in certain areas and approached John Boland, TD. John had a keen interest in the sea and was glad to join the committee. He later became President of the Skerries Branch. Several letters regarding the re-opening of the station went back and forth between Skerries and the RNLI. Lifeboat collections took place each Sunday at 13.30 in the Public houses. The annual Flag Day collection was organised for the August Bank Holiday weekend. The first lifeboat dance took place in 1974 in Red Island, later to held in the Holmpatrick Hotel, the Pavillion and Skerries Sailing Club. The fishermen would donate a box of prawns for auction at the dance.

The small apparatus shed at the back of the harbour, which was owned by Dublin County Council, was earmarked as a possible future lifeboat hour.

In 1979 the Skerries branch asked for a meeting with the RNLI. This meeting was granted and took place in the lifeboat office, which was in Clare Street, Dublin. Representing the Skerries branch were Jack Doyle, Gerry Grimes, John Boland and Sam Sheils. The met with Colonel Brian Clarke and RNLI representatives. The following points were made by Skerries. Many accidents had occurred over the years off Balbriggan, Skerries and Rush. Had there been a lifeboat some may have been prevented. Fund-raising was excellent, crewing the lifeboat was not a problem due to local interest. The County Council (thanks to John Boland) agreed to give full backing in providing shore facilities should a lifeboat be stationed at Skerries. Three weeks later Jack Doyle received a letter from the lifeboat head office informing him that a D. Class lifeboat would be stationed at Skerries on a trial basis when shore base facilities were available. Work began. The Dublin Co. Council knocked and rebuilt the lifeboat hours. Tony Carroll organised a group of future lifeboat crew to help in fitting out the station. The house was to facilitiate a 16’ inflatable lifeboat on a trailer. The Skerries Round Table organised a fund-raising trip on the Hydrofoil from Dublin to Liverpool via Skerries. The money raised from this trip went towards the completion of the lifeboat station.

Relief D Class lifeboat Number 176, engine and equipment was delivered to Skerries on June 30th, 1981. Training started on July 3rd and the initial stage was completed on July 11th. The official launching, blessing and handover by Mr Sean Barrett TD took place on July 31st 1981. John Bolland TD officially opened the station. That same day the lifeboat was placed on service after an exercise afloat with the Air Corps Rescue helicopter. Colonel Brian Clarke was present that day and wrote in the RNLI visitors book “Well done, Skerries, you knew you’d get it if you bullied us!”.

The first service by D176 was on 2nd August 1981. The lifeboat launched at 15.40 to the assistance of a small cabin cruiser which went aground on Church Island. The wind was gusting force four to five from the south. The cabin cruiser with two people on board was in danger of breaking up on the rock. The Skerries lifeboat crewed by Brian McDonagh and Niall McGrotty towed the cruiser back to Skerries. The lifeboat was only on station between March and October. The Management Committee as it was now called would prefer if the lifeboat could be in Skerries on call all the year.

As time passed the lifeboat crewed very successfully with many good service calls each year. Fund faising as ever continued to improve. Various fund-raising events were now taking place in Skerries each year. The Skerries Golf Club, through the efforts of Brian Sherwin and David May, was always very helpful to the lifeboat and held a golf tournament each year with the proceeds to the RNLI. A bicycle rally on St Patricks Day was always well supported. Loughshinny sea anglers held a fishing competition for the lifeboat. Tony McLoughlin organised football tournaments during the summer months, which were always great fun. Tony was a crewman, fund-raiser and later became Honorary Treasurer, his father was Gerry McLoughlin, coxswain of the Howth Lifeboat. Skerries became one of the best fund-raising branches in Ireland.

Between July 31st 1981 and September 30th 1981, the Skerries Lifeboat launced on service four times. The D Class lifeboat was a 16’, 6’ wide inflatable boat with a forty horsepower outboard engine. It could crew two or three people and was capable of speeds of up to twenty-two knots in good conditions. It was an inshore lifeboat and could only operate in day light hours. The boat was also limited to cover a distance of five miles from the lifeboat station. The lifeboat, however, was very quick to launch and could work very well in shallow water. With all the years of fund-raising it was great achievement to have the station re-opened.

During 1982, the lifeboat launched on seven occasions.

July 11th 1982
Skerries lifeboat launched at 20.00 to the assistance of a small motor boat with five children and five adults on board. Their engine had failed and they were in danger of drifting onto the rocks off Skerries. The lifeboat proceeded at top speed to casualty, secured a two rope to the motorboat and launched everyone safely ashore. The lifeboat was crewed by Sam Shiels and Martin O’Toole. Hon. Sec. Jack Doyle, Shore help, Rory O’Byrne, Kalane O’Leary. Kalane became the first female in Ireland and the UK to crew the D. Class lifeboat.

May 26th 1983
The lifeboat crewed by Hugh Canning and Martin Reddin launched to the assistance of two children on one sailboard. They were in difficulty and in danger of drowning off Church Island. The two children were rescued and brought ashore. Between March 1983 and October 1983 the lifeboat launched on seven services.

Training was very much part of lifeboat work. Frank Rafter provided swimming and lifesaving lessons. Frank was also a crew member. RNLI mobile unit provided First Aid Courses locally and later. Fire fighting courses took place at Dublin Airport courtesy of Aer Rianta. Lifeboat crews were later taken to the lifeboat training centre in England. All crew members had to undergo a medical, which was carried out by Honorary Medical Adviser, Dr. John Keane.

April 29th 1984
The Skerries lifeboat launched at 09.10 am and proceeded at full speed to Loughshinny ato assist a person who had fallen from a cliff. A doctor was taken to the scene and pronounced the casualty fit to be moved. The boy and doctor were taken to the harbour where an ambulance was waiting. The lifeboat was crewed by George Duncan, Liam McMahon and David Dardis who was awarded a long service medal in 2001. That year the lifeboat launched on eleven services.

August 4th 1985
Three young divers swam to cross rocks from Skerries Harbour and were in extreme danger from offshore winds and strong tides. They were clinging on to a lobster buoy and waving for help. The lifeboat launched with Tony McLoughlin and Rory O’Byrne on board. On being taken on board the lifeboat, they explained that they had been in the water for some time and were exhausted and in urgent need of help. During the period March – October 1985 the lifeboat launched on six service calls – Brian Carty (crew) became Lord Mayor of Skerries raising over £7,000 for the RNLI.

August 2nd 1986
The lifeboat launched to the assistance of two people in danger of drowning when they were being blown out to sea off Laytown on sail boards. Lifeboat launched at 18.10, proceeded at top speed and reached casualties. They were very cold and very glad to see the lifeboat. The lifeboat landed the two people at Laytown beach where medical help was waiting. Crew of the lifeboat – Sam Shiels, Martin Reddin and Conor Walsh. The lifeboat was busy during 1986 between March and October with ten launches.

August 8th 1987
The Honorary Secretary, Jack Doyle, was informed that a youth had fallen off a cliff at Loughshinny. The lifeboat launched and on arrival at the scene, two crew waded ashore to find the youth had a suspected broken hip and was suffering from shock. First Aid was given until arrival of the helicopter. Crew assisted in lifting casualty on to a stretcher into the helicopter. Lifeboat crew – David May, Felix Murray and Eric Walsh.

In 1987, the RNLI agreed to leave the lifeboat on station until end of November. The lifeboat launched on nine services. The last service that year being on 1st November. The Management felt they were slowing getting to an all year station.

August 29th 1988
The lifeboat launched at 13.30 to two youths whose dinghy had capsized and were unable to right the boat. The two youths were in the dinghy for thirty minutes and were in danger of drowning. Skerries lifeboat picked up the two people and landed them safely ashore. The dinghy was also towed to the harbour. Cre: Rory O’Byrne, Eric Walsh, Tony McLoughlin. Eight services took place between March and November of that year.

In 1989 Jack Doyle retired as Honorary Secretary. Sam Shiels was appointed Honorary Secretary. Brian Carthy as Chairman, John Boland as President, Dr John Kean and Dr Tom Elliot, Honorary Medical Adviosors, Fergus Briscoe as Honorary Treasurer. Leo Cody, Paddy Tyndall and David May, Deputy Launching Authorities. The lifeboat launched on 14 service calls in 1989. the last service for that year was on 21st November 1989. The lifeboat was requested by Marine Rescue Co-Ordinating Centre to launch and carry out search for person thought to be missing whne a capsized boat was seen near Shenick Island. The search was carried out with the assistance of Howth Lifeboat and a Rescue Helicopter which lasted two hours. The wreckage had been at Shenick for some time. It was later established that a lobster boat had been in the area at the time the capsize was reported. The gardai confirmed that the person thought to be missing was now safe in Rush harbour. The search was called off. The lifeboat was crewed by Peter McNally, Conor Walsh and Tony Carroll. Martin O’Toole and Kelanne O’Leary assisted.

September 23rd 1990
On September 23rd 1990, a new D Class lifeboat was dedicated to Skerries. The lifeboat was donated by Helen Mitchell Scrimgeour. The ceremony took place at the lifeboat station and later food was served by Sylvia Hogan and the ladies committee from Skerries Sailing Club.

November 24th 1990
A14.45 on Sturday 24th November 1990 MRCC activated paging unit. They requested lifeboat to launch to the assistance of a fishing trawler “Budding Rose” with three crew on board. The reported the trawler was in immediate danger of sinking off Balbriggan harbour. Honorary Secretary requested the assistance of a helicopter and Howth or Clogherhead Lifeboat to be launched. The wind was force 6 or 7 Easterly. The Skerries lifeboat launched and proceeded to the trawler. On reaching the trawler, the raging seas capsized the lifeboat and washed the crew and lifeboat ashore. While one of the crew remained with the lifeboat ashore the other two crew waded out to the trawler, which was now aground and took a rope ashore and secured it to a large boulder thus giving the crew of the trawler a life line. Minutes later the helicopter arrived and winched the three crew from the trawler. The lifeboat was trailed back to Skerries.

The station was at this time only on call between March and November. The management committee made every effort to persuade the RNLI to have the lifeboat on station all year.

June 27th 1991
On 27th June 1991, the lifeboat headquarters in England informed the Honorary Secretary that Skerries lifeboat was designated an all year station. The new lifeboat launched on fourteen services during 1991. The last service that year was on December 1st 1991. MRCC Shannon requested the lifeboat to launch to investigate a lobster boat thought to be in difficulty. The lobster boat in question was not in difficulty.

The first annual RNLI fun Raft Race took place in June 1992. The race was held on a Saturday and was started by Charles Haughey, former Taoiseach. The raft race proved to be a good fund-raising event as well as raising peoples’ awareness of the RNLI. Forty-two rafts of all shapes and sizes took part in the race. The rafts were crewed by four to six people in fancy dress. It was supported by Clogherhead Lifeboat and the Air Corps Rescue Helicopter. The raft race was sponsored by Wavin Pipes. Thousands of people turned out to watch the race.

During 1992, the Skerries Lifeboat was called out for assistance ten times.

The D class as mentioned previously was very quick to launch and capable of speeds of up to twenty knots. On August 26th 1992, the D Class lifeboat performed a very good rescue when two youths got into difficulty off Skerries harbour when their dinghy capsized. They had difficulty righting the boat and they got caught underneath. Another boat that was anchored in the harbour heard the shouts for help. The lifeboat launched immediately, crewed by Rory O’Byrne and Conor Walsh, and rescued the two youths. The two youths were landed ashore and later the lifeboat towed in their dinghy.

July 7th 1993
Royalty descended on Skerries on Wednesday, July 7th when HRH the Duke of Kent came to inspect the lifeboat station in his capacity as President of the RNLI. People’s attention was drawn to the event by the large presence of gardai in the town. The managerial committee, crew and many supporters met the Duke of Kent. Later, the D class lifeboat launched for a short exercise. Hopes were high that the visit by the Duke may be an indicator that a further upgrading of the local RNLI might be in the pipeline. Brian Carthy presented the Duke with a watercolour of the harbour by Hugh Ryan. In a short speech the Duke thanks all the local members for the warmth of their greeting and assured them of the support of the central organisation in all their efforts to upgrade the service.

The Lifeboat launched nine times during 1993

Once again, letters went back and forward between Skerries and the RNLI headquarters regarding upgrading.

Since 1991, the Skerries branch had ben very successful both on and off the water. A bigger lifeboat would give greater cover between our two Flank Stations, Howth and Clogherhead. An Atlantic 21 type lifeboat would be ideal for Skerries. Quick to launch, safer for the crew and capable of speeds up to 30 knots. It would mean a larger lifeboat house.

In March 1994, the Honorary Secretary received a letter from George Cooper, Chief of Operations, RNLI, advising at its meeting held March 23rd 1994, the Executive Committee resolved that an Atlantic 21 B Class lifeboat be allocated to replace the D Class lifeboat at Skerries subject to shore facilities being made available.

Numerous meetings between Fingal County Council, RNLI, Architects, Builders and the Skerries Branch took place. Plans were agreed upon and planning permission applied for. Work commenced in April 1997 to build the new lifeboat house. While the new house was being built, the D class lifeboat was kindly housed in the Skerries Sailing Club, enabling the lifeboat to remain on call. In 1997, an Atlantic 21 relief lifeboat station was placed in Skerries to carry out evaluation trials. The cost of the new lifeboat station was in excess of £100,000. Mr Joe Bogdanovich, through the Ireland Fund, made a substantial donation towards the building.

The Atlantic 21 lifeboat launched on its first service on November 16th 1997. Irish Marine Emergency Service requested B543 Relief lifeboat to launch to carry out a search between Rush harbour and Lambay Island where red flares were spotted. Skerries Lifeboat was joined by Howth Lifeboat and a rescue helicopter. Nothing was found and the lifeboats returned to base. The lifeboat launched at 19.00 hours and returned at 23.30 hours and was crewed by Niall McGrotty, Martin Lennox and Colm Collins.

September 19th 1998
On September 19th, 1998, the ceremony to officially name and open the lifeboat house was held. Mr Sam Shiels, Honorary Secretary accepted the new Atlantic 75 lifeboat on behalf of the Skerries branch. The lifeboat was officially named RNLB ‘Rockabill’ by Mr Gerry McLoughlin, retired coxswain from Howth. The official opening of the new lifeboat house was conducted by Mr Kieran McLoughlin, Director (Ireland) of the Ireland Fund.

The Atlantic 75 is 7.5 meters long and is the fastest lifeboat in the fleet with a top speed of 32 knots. With night time capability, the lifeboat can stay at sea for three hours at top speed so increasing search and rescue operations immensely. The cost of the lifeboat was £75,000, launching tractor and trailor £85,000. During 1998, the lifeboat launched 16 times on service.

June 22nd 1998
Lifeboat launched to ssist a yacht ‘Orion’ which ran aground on the south side of Church Island with five people on board. Lifeboat stood by until Orion was safe.

June 6th 1999
Irish Marine Emergency Services requested Skerries lifeboat to launch to assist 52’ fishing trawler “Marita” whose fishing nets had fouled her propeller eight and a half miles north east of Skerries. Lifeboat launched at 01.10 hours and proceeded to casualty. The lifeboat towed the trawler back to Skerries, arriving at 04.10 hours. Lifeboat crew Colm Collins, Jim Boylan and David Knight.

1n 1999, our busiest year, the Lifeboat launched 23 times on service

May 11th 200
A person in extreme danger when his jetski failed. He was being pushed onto the rocks at Harrisons Bay in force 4 to 5 north easterly winds. The lifeboat launched immediately with Eoin McCarthy, David Knight and the Honorary Secretary. The person was taken on board the lifeboat and the jetski towed in.

Lifeboat launched 20 times on service during 2000

September 12th 2001
IMES requested Skerries lifeboat to launch to assist lobster boat in difficulty off Balbriggan with one person on board. Lifeboat took lobster boat in tow and landed him at Balbriggan harbour. Crew: William Boylan, David Knight, Martin Lennox. Lifeboat launched at 12.30 and returned at 13.00.

February 19th 2002
A lobster boat with rope caught in propeller behind St Patricks Island, IMES requested the lifeboat to launch. Lifeboat launched at 13.20, took boat in tow with two people on board. Returned to base at 13.55. Crew William Boylan, David Knight and Mark Fenton. Tractor Driver was D Jenkins.

Much has been achieved since the beginning of the small meetings which took place in the Sailing Club, public houses and family kitchens. The lifeboats, like the vessels that sailed up and down our coasts many years ago, are different to the lifeboat and ships of today. The object of the RNLI is very much the same. The new lifeboat at Skerries, the Atlantic 75 will provide great cover between our flank stations, Clogherhead to the North and Howth to the South.

Sam Shiels
Hon. Secretary
March 2002


Hon. Sec  
Hy Alexander Hamilton JP 1854 – 1900
Francis Gowan 1858 – 1873
W.G. Percival 1876 – 1877
Wm C. Townsend 1877 – 1878
Hy H. Foster 1878 – 1889
Geo H. Fowler 1889 – 1895
A. Murphy 1895 – 1898
Joseph May 1898 – 1909
Joseph Dollard 1909 – 1923
Jas. Weldon 1923
Wm R. Bailey 1924
Jn. V. Doyle 1981
Sam Shiels 1989 – 2002
Brian Carty 2002 – current
Joseph Clarke, Ch Btmn. CG -
F D Aalton, Ch. Offr. CG -
Patrick Carey 1897
Samuel Evans 1897 – 1910
John Curry 1910 – 1919
William Shiels 1919 – 1930
Senior Helmsmen  
Tony Walsh 1981 – 1983
Sam Shiels 1983 – 1989
Tony Carroll 1989 – 1994
Liam McMahon 1994 – 1997
Niall McGrotty 1997 – 2000
Colm Collins 2000 -
Jim Boylan -
William Boylan 1997 – current


01 Alcock Chris SHPO
02 Atley Mark  
03 Beggs Brian  
04 Beggs Geraldine  
05 Boland John  
06 Boylan Peter  
07 Boylan Jim  
08 Boylan Pat  
09 Boylan William  
10 Briscoe Fergus Hon. Treasurer
11 Canning Hugh  
12 Canning Gerard  
13 Carroll Tim  
14 Carroll Tony Hon. Treasurer
15 Carty Brian DLA/Hon Sec
16 Cody Cathal  
17 Cody Leo DLA
18 Collins Colm  
19 Courtney David  
20 Dardis David  
21 Doyle Jack Hon. Treasurer
22 Doyle Ralph  
23 Duff Eoin  
24 Duff Karl  
25 Duff Tom  
26 Duncan George  
27 Eastwood Damien  
28 Fenton Mark  
29 Ferguson Philip  
30 Grimes Gerry Hon. Treasurer
31 Guildea Ian  
32 Jenkins David  
33 Keane Dr John  
34 Knight David  
35 Lennox Martin  
36 Manning Noel  
37 May David DLA
38 McDonagh Brian  
39 McCarthy Eoin  
40 McGrotty Niall DLA
41 McLoughlin Tony DLA
42 McMahon Liam  
43 McNally Brian  
44 McNally Peter  
45 Morgan Brendan  
46 Murray Felix  
47 O’Byrne Rory  
48 O’Leary Killane  
49 O’Toole Ciara  
50 O’Toole Martin  
51 Palmer Mark  
52 Plunkett Joe Chairman
53 Radley Chris  
54 Rafter Frank  
55 Reddin Martin  
56 Roche Darragh  
57 Shiels Sam Hon. Sec
58 Steward Andrew  
59 Tolan Darragh  
60 Tyndall Paddy DLA
61 Walsh Anthony  
62 Walsh Conor  
63 Walsh Eric