Bundoran Lifeboat Station

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Phone:  0719841713


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Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. Confucius

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 the area. 

These included: three young children lost off Bundoran beach in 1978;

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 service.

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 Delaney.

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 River Shannon.


It 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 fundraising committee.


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, Gardaí, 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 rapidly.


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

Website – www.bundoranlifeboat.com

National Press Officer Niamh Stephenson can be contacted at RNLI Divisional Base, Swords, Co. Dublin.










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This site was last updated 03/21/13