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Micheál retires after 44 years service to RNLI

May 2nd, 2021 9:45 PM

By Jackie Keogh

Michael Hurley has retired from the RNLI after 44 years service. He was one of the longest-serving volunteers with the RNLI in Ireland serving as coxswain and station chief with the Courtmacsherry lifeboat. He is also well known throughout West Cork through his work as an engineer. (Photo: Denis Boyle)

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AFTER 44 years of uninterrupted service as a member of the RNLI in Courtmacsherry, Micheál Hurley has retired.

Since answering his first lifeboat callout in 1977, Micheál Hurley has been a superb ambassador for the RNLI, especially in Courtmacsherry.

Micheal served as station mechanic for 22 years, and for the last 11 years he was a voluntary station coxswain and crewman.

He also found time to serve as a relief coxswain all over the UK and even in the most northerly station in the Shetlands, when help was required.

Throughout this lifetime of service, he has visited all of the 238 RNLI lifeboat stations in the UK, as well as 40 more in Ireland.

The experience he gained has stood to him in his far-flung engineering jobs, such as the Suez Canal in Egypt, the highlands of Scotland, and even the lowlands of Skibbereen, where he worked for two years on the flood relief scheme.

Always looking for the solution rather than the problem, Micheál has been a great fundraising volunteer and former education officer at the Courtmacsherry station.

He was christened ‘The Big Fellow’ by Phil Coulter when the original Lifeboat anthem Home from the Sea was first recorded.

It was apt that Phil was on hand to launch his book on the history of the Courtmacsherry Lifeboat in 1995, when the station received a new Trent Class Lifeboat.

As a RNLI volunteer, Micheál has been out in mountainous seas and terrible conditions over the last four decades and many people are alive today because crewmen like Micheál are on call 365 days a year.

Micheál’s memories could probably fill another book but one of the most enduring of all, he said, is the night spent at sea in search of a missing pleasure boat on December 19th 1981.

‘That night we were out in atrocious conditions off the Seven Heads,’ said Micheál, ‘while our comrade crew members – with the Penlee RNLI Lifeboat in Cornwall – lost their lives in a callout under similar conditions.’

Although Saturday, April 10th, was officially his last day as a crewperson, Micheál will continue to be an important part of the lifeboat station for decades to come.

‘I’m looking forward – post Covid-19 – to organising more fundraising events to support the RNLI,’ said Micheál who pointed out that the first lifeboat was established in Courtmacsherry in 1825.

It was, in fact, one of the first to be founded in Ireland and has throughout that time continued to be central to the life of the community.

‘It is very much part of the proud history and tradition of this beautiful seaside village,’ he said.

Micheál’s wit and wisdom on callouts is something which  will also be missed.

His colleagues also regret the fact that due to Covid-19 restrictions they can’t share a few pints with him to celebrate his long and loyal service to his community.

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