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Donaghadee Lifeboats

Photographs © Aubrey Dale & Trevor Kidd - Text Trevor Kidd

The lifeboat station at Donaghadee harbour is one of the most important on the Irish coast covering the well travelled southern approaches to Belfast Lough.  Founded in 1910, the station is equipped with an all weather Trent class lifeboat - RNLB Saxon (14-36) brought into service in 2003. 

RNLB Saxon replaced the previous Arun class lifeboat RNLB City of Belfast (52-33), which had been a long time servant at the Donaghadee station and was built using funds raised by the people of Belfast .  Upon her replacement by Saxon she served as relief lifeboat at a few of Northern Ireland ’s other lifeboat stations before going to Lifeboat Headquarters at Poole for storage.

  Perhaps the best known lifeboat based at the Donaghadee station was RNLB Sir Samuel Kelly.  Her biggest single rescue of lives at sea was on the 31st of January 1953 when she gallantly went out into the raging Irish Sea to rescue 32 of the 44 survivors from the stricken Larne – Stranraer car ferry Princess Victoria (IV).  She carries the name of one of the famous Kelly family which served Northern Ireland ’s homes and industry so well with their collier fleet throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.  Sir Samuel Kelly has now been preserved and is on display at Donaghadee, standing near the harbour and her modern day counterpart.

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Arun class ON 1107 (52-33) City of Belfast at Donaghadee 17 Nov 2002City of Belfast at Portrush 28 May 2003

Farewell to Donaghadee the City of Belfast makes her final departure for storage at Poole 25 Aug 2003


The naming ceremony for Trent class ON 1267 (14-36) Saxon at Donaghadee.  Also included are Bangor ’s Atlantic 21 “Youth of Ulster” (B584) and Portpatrick’s Tyne class ON 1151 (47-033) Mary Irene Millar 13 Sept 2003
1216a_29-5-04_wp.jpg (77568 bytes)1216b_29-5-04_wp.jpg (73190 bytes)sir_samuel_kelly_plaque_a.jpg (52744 bytes)Watson class ON 885 Sir Samuel Kelly at Donaghadee 29 May 2004 (left)
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Sir Samuel Kelly Plaque reads:

Sir Samuel Kelly

Gift from Lady Mary Kelly, Crawfordsburn

Arrived Donaghadee 1950-1976

Lives rescued 78

32 people were rescued from the Princess Victoria in January 1953

Featured prominently in rescues in the Fastnet race from Courtmacsherry while in the reserve fleet

Brought back to Donaghadee and restored by Sir Samuel Kelly Preservation Committee

Saxon returning to Donaghadee from exercise 10 Oct 2004


Tyne class ON 1151 (47-033) Mary Irene Millar departing Portpatrick on exercise 31 Oct 2004 RNLB City of Belfast at Larne on 15/6/03 covering the refit of Larne based Trent class lifeboat Dr John McSparran (14-30).



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