The Lifeboat station in the most south westerly region in Ireland, was first established in 1864 at Reenard Point. It was closed 32 years and 10 service launches later, in 1896. A temporary lifeboat was stationed in Valentia between 1939 and 1945 and, in 1946 it was decided to make Valentia a permanent lifeboat and they have been in service 536 times and saved 388 lives, at the time this article was written.
There have been eight gallantry medals awarded; six of these to Coast Guard members, before the stationed opened. The other medals were; a silver medal to Cocswain D. Walsh in 1970 and a bronze medal to Motor Mechanic J.J. Houlihan in 1963. It is interesting to note that when the lifeboat station opened in 1864; the cost was defrayed by the generous gift of £508 from Miss M. Wasey. The Severn Class lifeboat in Valentia today cost over £1.5m to build.
Valentia Lifeboat in training session

Some of the outstanding historical facts relating to Valentia lifeboat station include:


1864 A lifeboat station was established at Reenard Point at a cost of £508. The 32ft ten oared lifeboat was named Mary, at the request of the donor Miss M. Wassey.
1869 The lifeboat house was moved to Valentia at a cost of £70.
1896 The station was closed. In the previous 32 years, there had been 10 service launches and three different lifeboats at Valentia
1939 to 1945 An auxiliary rescue boat was placed at Valentia during the second world war, to help aircraft personnel forced down by bad weather, engine failure or injury, as they flew in from the Atlantic.
1946 A new permanent lifeboat station was opened at Valentia .
1957 The 52ft Barnett class lifeboat, R.N.L.B. Roland Watts was placed on station
1963 The Mechanic Joseph Houlihan, was awarded the bronze medal for a single-handed rescue. In september 1963, he saw a dinghy capsize about 600 yards from the lifeboat storehouse, where he was working. He launched the boarding boat into rough seas, rowed out to the dinghy and managed to pull one man in. The other survivor, a clergyman, was too heavy for the mechanic to pull on board on the boat. He therefore told the clergyman to hang on to the transom. The return trip was extremely difficult, as the man hanging in the sea created a drogue effect and there was a rough following sea. Joe Houlihan eventually managed to beach the boat and land the two men, by which time he was nearly exhausted himself.
1970 The former coxswain, Dermot Walsh, was awarded the Institution's silver medal and his six man crew were awarded the Thanks of the institution inscribed on Vellum, for the rescue of ten men from the motor vessel Oranmore of limerick, on the night of 20/21 February. The 650 ton vessel broke down over 40 miles from Valentia, near the Kerry Head shaol. It was blowing a west north westerly gale with very high seas. Having reached the casualty, the lifeboat stood by for two hours. Coxswain Walsh and his crew received a message that the master was ready for some of his crew to be taken off. The lifeboat rose and fell 20 ft to 30 ft with crashing seas; on the first run in, one man was snatched from a rope ladder. On the second run in, two men were taken off, but it was impossible to hold the lifeboat steady for more than a few seconds. For almost an hour, the coxswain took his lifeboat alongside and moved out again. Ten ,en were rescued though another one who mistimed his jump and fell into the sea, died in spite of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation by Coxswain Walsh and Motor Mechanic Houlihane. For this service, the silver medal was awarded to the coxswain.
1983 Barnett class lifeboat was withdrawn and replaced by an Arun class lifeboat. R.N.L.B. Margaret Frances Love arrived on station on 18 February.
1985 Framed letters of appreciation signed by the Chairman of the Institution, the Duke of Atholl, awarded to the Coxswain and crew in recognition of the thoroughly professional manner in which they carried out their duties on the 23 June in the lifeboat "Margaret Frances Love", when they had the very distressing and unpleasant task of recovering five badly mutilated bodies when an Air India Boeing 747 crashed approximately 115 miles south west of Valentia.
1989 A framed letter of appreciation signed by the Chairman of the Institution, the Duke of Atholl, awarded to Coxswain Seanie Murphy in recognition of his seamanship and leadership during the 12 hours' service to the trawler "Big Cat" which had broken down and was around Beginnis Island on the 13 January. The lifeboat "Margaret Frances Love" was officially off service at the time with a defective engine. However, such was the urgency of the situation that Coxswain Murphy proceeded on the remaining serviceable engine in a string southerly gale and rough seas to the assistance of the casualty. A rescue from seaward was too dangerous and the service of the Cliff life Saving Services and a helicopter, together with volunteers, were called upon to help in the rescue of the "Big Cat's" crew.
1995 New boathouse constructed on the existing site of the old boathouse, which provided very little in the way of crew facilities. The new boathouse includes housing for the D class lifeboat and boarding boat, a workshop, fuel store, crew toilet and shower facilities.
1996 Arun class lifeboat withdrawn and replaced by a Severn class. The first of the Severn classes to arrive in Ireland, R.N.L.B. "John and Margaret Doig".

  Article taken from the 1997 All-Ireland Coastal rowing Championships souvenir programme which was held in Valentia on the 22 to 24 August 1997

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Valentia Lifeboat Station, August '98

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Wick Lifeboat

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Boxels Chandlery

Another great site with loads of photos and info about IMES, Lifeboats and Marine Coastal communication
The Search and Rescue Database

This Royal National Lifeboat Institution site owned by Cathal Guiney.
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