Bundoran lifeboat History
1972 Bundoran Inshore Rescue, a private rescue service, was established..
In 1976 Bundoran rescue Committee, was set up in after the
tragic drowning of Danny Kerrigan, a Signals NCO attached to
Finner Camp, who was washed from the cliffs at Roguey Rocks.
Despite Danny's great efforts to stay afloat in heavy seas, no
boat could get to the scene in time to save him. As a result of
his tragic death, a meeting brought together members of the
Defence Forces, Gardai, Fire Brigade and water safety interests
in the area, the result of which was the formation of Bundoran
rescue Committee. Completely new to the area of water safety,
they sought the advice of RNLI water safety experts from Tramore
in Co. Waterford. Following consultation and an assessment of
the local area it was decided to launch the new service from the
West End pier.
Funds were raised in the locality and a second hand 'D' class
inflatable boat was purchased from the RNLI. The boat was
initially stored in sheds in Bundoran up until the committee,
with the support of many local people, built the first rescue
boathouse on the pier.
To train the first crews, the Irish Water Safety Association in
conjunction with the RNLI ran a course in Tramore and the first
crew to complete the course were: Joe Chapman, Marti Granaghan,
Frank O Kelly, Steve Staunton and Whittey Kilbride. In 1979 a
new boat, an 'Avon Sea Rider' was purchased and was officially
launched by Bridget Gorebooth, after whom the boat was named.
In 1983 using a youth employment scheme, the second boathouse
was built to house the new rescue boat and equipment including a
crew changing room and a two bay boat garage. During these
years the boats and crews were involved in many sea tragedies in
These included: three young children lost off Bundoran beach in
the Mountbatten incident off Mullaghmore in August 1979.
There was also the rescue of a father and son from Kilcar, as
they were nearly swept off rocks at Bundoran in 1985.
In February 1988, a storm, Hurricane Charlie, damaged the boat
house and swept the rescue boat out to sea. It was later found
damaged on Bundoran beach, beyond repair. A larger second hand
boat was purchased with a loan and went into service. The
development and purchase of this equipment and service was
largely due to the unselfish volunteer crews and committee and
to good local support around the Donegal/Leitrim/Sligo coast.
Indeed, this has been the hallmark of the rescue service that
has been provided from Bundoran down the years leading to
integral relationships between the rescue service and locals
over the past twenty years.
1991 The private rescue service asked the RNLI to take over the running of their
New Era - The RNLI
IN the early 1990s, after examining the location, the Royal
National Lifeboat Institution agreed to take over Bundoran
Rescue Committee and a new dedicated lifeboat station was born,
giving cover to the Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo and north Mayo
coastline. A more modern Lifeboat station was built at the West
End Pier in 1993 which housed an 'Atlantic 75' class lifeboat
and launching tractor. The new RNLI Inshore Lifeboat (ILB)
B-711, “Helene” was officially launched in 1996 by Mrs. Ronnie
In July 2009 a new Lifeboat an
'Atlantic 85' William Henry Liddington was delivered to
Bundoran, replacing Helene to continue the lifesaving work
around Donegal Bay.
The RNLI has more
than 230 lifeboat stations in the Republic of Ireland and the
UK. There are more than 4,500 lifeboat crew members. They are
volunteers from every walk of life. The organisation is funded
by voluntary contributions and legacies. RNLI rescue operations
are coordinated by Irish Coast Guard and UK Maritime and
Coastguard Agency. RNLI crews are ‘on call 24 hours a day, 365
days a year. The RNLI operate twelve different types of rescue
craft including Inshore Lifeboats (ILBs), All Weather Lifeboats
(ALBs), Hovercraft and rescue Jet-skis. ALBs can reach up to 100
miles offshore within 2.5 hours in fair weather. The RNLI covers
the Open sea , Inshore areas, local beaches and most recently
inland waters at Enniskillen on the Erne and Lough Derg on the
costs €13M to operate the organisation per anum around €35,600
every day. For every €1 spent, 80 cent goes directly to
lifesaving. Funding is got entirely from voluntary contributions
such as legacies, supporters, direct debits, fundraising
appeals, souvenirs and gifts. Fund Raising at local level is
organised by branches and guilds.
Area of Operations
The Bundoran Lifeboat is the primary response RNLI Lifeboat
responsible for the whole Donegal Bay east of a line from
Stredagh Strand in Co. Sligo to Rathlin O Birne Island in Co.
Donegal. Indeed prior to the establishment of Sligo Bay Lifeboat
in 1998 the Bundoran boat attended incidents as far away as
Killala, Co. Mayo.
Should the Bundoran crew require assistance, flank Lifeboat
stations include Sligo Bay Lifeboat, Aranmore all-weather
lifeboat and Ballyglass ALB near Belmullet in Co. Mayo. In
addition Bundoran Crew have good working relationships with the
Irish Coastguard Helicopter based in Sligo and the Irish
Coastguard Unit based in Killybegs.
The Bundoran crew number approximately thirty personal. These
individuals are all volunteers and fill a variety of posts in
the station including a Lifeboat Operations Manager, three
Deputy Launching Authorities (DLAs), a Lifeboat Medical Officer,
(LMO), two Mechanics, a Lifeboat Administrative Officer (LAO), a
Head Helmsman, a Lifeboat Training Coordinator (LTC),a Lifeboat
Press Officer (LPO), Tractor Drivers, Lifeboat Helmsmen,
Lifeboat Crew, two Chaplains, probationers, radio operators and
shore crew. In addition the station has a separate station
While the majority of Bundoran personnel and fundraising
committee come from a non-maritime background they bring a wide
range of experience and skills to the RNLI from their civilian
jobs. A broad range of occupations are represented. These
include the building industry, quantity surveying, boat charter,
company directors, fishermen,
accountancy, mechanics, Defence Forces members, Fisheries
Officers, Customs, Ambulance Service personnel, carpenters,
farmers, teachers, veterinary, third level students and the
legal profession. At present two local second level students are
training as potential crew members.
All lifeboat and tractor crew carry pagers and are “on call”
twenty four hours per day 365 days a year. Bundoran Crew are
well known in maritime circles for their very fast launches.
Average launch time is five minutes.
RNLI crew in Britain and Ireland are trained to high standards.
All crew complete their initial training ‘on-station’. New
members undergo a stringent medical examination and must be able
to swim a minimum of 100 metres fully clothed. Before a crew
member goes to sea he/she must complete basic “Potential Crew”
training over a period of twelve months. This includes RNLI and
Coastguard structures and operations, health and safety,
personal protective equipment (PPE), launch and recovery
procedures, pyrotechnics, basic navigation skills, VHF radio
procedure, basic First Aid and CPR and each must develop a
detailed knowledge of the International Rules for the Prevention
of Collisions at Sea (IRPCS). In addition he/she must
familiarise themselves thoroughly with the actual lifeboat (even
in the dark!!).
Recently the RNLI have introduced a Competence Based Training
(CBT) system. All crew are assessed every three years on an
on-going basis and external courses such as RYA Coastal Skipper
are accredited and encouraged. RNLI ‘Assessor – Trainers’ come
from RNLI Divisional Headquarters in Dublin to carry out CBT
assessments three to four times annually.
Once the “potential crew” phase of training is complete, the new
crew member can go to sea on the lifeboat as a “Probationer”
however does not go on “shouts” at this stage. Further training
involves boat handling (in all weathers!!), coastal
familiarisation, navigation and use of GPS, search and rescue
techniques, anchoring and veering, close quarter boat-handling,
emergency survival procedures at sea, helicopter winching
operations, towing procedures, engine fault finding and weather
systems. In addition, crew undertake an RNLI certificate in
Occupational First Aid at Sea. Due to the isolated nature of
lifeboat operations at sea, RNLI First-Aiders require a high
standard. A wide range of first aid topics are covered including
CPR, cardiac emergencies, trauma and medical emergencies,
hypothermia, immersion casualties, spinal management, diving
emergencies, casualty assessment and ‘triage’ and the use of
oxygen and entinox. The crew place strong emphasis on casualty
handling and pre-hospital care.
During this “Probationary phase”, probation crew attend a one
week course at the RNLI’s new state of the art Lifeboat College
in Poole in England. (See
www.rnli.co.uk ). Once satisfactory completed, crew are
awarded the internationally recognised RYA Powerboat Level II
Certificate. The trainee is now a full crew member and may
progress to Helm standard during the course of their RNLI
career. Recently the RNLI have introduced a basic fitness test
for all crew.
Tractor Trainees undergo the same basic training as new
‘Potential Crew’. This is followed by intensive tractor training
in launch and recovery of the lifeboat, emergency situations and
rough weather recovery of the lifeboat. Bundoran station has a
specialised “Talus” tractor, one of only two based in Ireland
due to the sometimes rough conditions experienced at Bundoran.
No lifeboat or tractor or lifeboat can operate without ongoing
maintenance. Bundoran station has two dedicated mechanics who
service the boat on a weekly basis. In addition the present crew
would like to acknowledge the valuable contribution and
experience past members have made to the station.
Sea Safety Advice
Bundoran Crew would like to emphasise to members of the public
the importance of staying safe at sea. All persons going to sea
should wear a life jacket. Each vessel should carry flares, a
VHF radio, spare fuel and an emergency “grab bag” containing
rations etc. Larger vessels should also have survival equipment
appropriate to their size such as EPIRBS (emergency beacons),
SART and survival rafts. In addition, mariners should wear
clothing which appropriate to weather conditions. All seafarers
are advised to check weather forecasts, tides and sea state. The
sea should be respected at all times as conditions can change
For those who walk or fish along the coastline extreme care
should be exercised at all times. Rocky shorelines, cliffs and
steep inclines should be avoided during times of high winds and
strong swells. As we move towards the summer season beachgoers
are advised to obey safety flags and the instructions of
lifeguards. Parents are especially advised to be vigilant at all
times. Use of inflatable toys should be avoided as they can
easily drift with wind and tide even on days perceived as calm.
Coastguard advice leaflets on all these activities are available
at Bundoran Lifeboat Station.
Finally members of the public are advised that in the event of a
marine incident, no matter how minor, to ring 999 or 112
immediately and ask for Coastguard. It is better to have the
Lifeboat, Coastguard Units and Helicopter called out rather and
be ‘stood down’ rather than risk lives at sea.
Bundoran Lifeboat Station - 071 – 98 – 41713
National Press Officer Niamh Stephenson can be contacted at
RNLI Divisional Base, Swords, Co. Dublin.