Honouring the heroes of the greatest
loss ever suffered by the Irish RNLI
The story surrounding the wreck of the Norwegian schooner, the Mexico, and the sinking of the Helen Blake lifeboat has long been etched into the history of South East Ireland, but it was a casual conversation between two brothers that brought it back into focus and led to the villagers of Fethard on Sea in County Wexford embarking on an ambitious community project to build a full size replica of the historic lifeboat.
One hundred years after a disaster in which a total of ten people lost their lives (nine from the Helen Blake, and one from the Mexico), the crew were remembered and commemorated during a ceremony attended by the Norwegian ambassador, at the monument erected in their memory, and to their bravery, in the heart of the village.
Following the ceremony David & Keith Power, grandsons of a crew member who sadly lost his life in the disaster, commented that it would be a fitting tribute if a replica of the lifeboat could be built. The idea was quickly picked up, a number of villagers got together, a voluntary steering committee was formed and the project started to take shape.
Bord Iascaigh Mhara, the Irish Fisheries Board, got involved through their local officer, John Hickey, and provided funds to cover the costs of a feasibility study. This was followed by renowned naval architect Theo Rye preparing detailed drawings and stability calculations, and from then on the dream became reality.
Building the boat is estimated to take 18 months and, as a true community project, the work will be carried out as part of a Tús training programme. Tús is the Irish word for ‘start’, and it is anticipated that this opportunity will give a number of unemployed people a fresh start, enabling them to gain work experience and valuable skills under the supervision of local shipwright John Colfer, who counts the Dunbrody famine ship amongst the previous projects he has worked on.
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“The most sublime act is to set another before you”
– William Blake
We would like to thank Liam Ryan for his invaluable assistance with the history and various images. Thanks also to Declan Hearne, Tomás Williams, Kevin Downes, John Cooper and Arild E Syvertsen for various images.