BY HELEN RIDDELL
ONE of Castletownbere RNLI Lifeboat’s longest serving members has retired after dedicating 50 years of her life to, not only raising funds for the RNLI, but also being one of a number of people who actively campaigned over the years for a lifeboat to be stationed in the town.
Sheila O’Driscoll, a native of Kenmare, moved to Castletownbere in the 1960s when she married her late husband Billy. Like many coastal areas, Beara has, over the years experienced a number of maritime tragedies.
It was following the Seaflower tragedy in 1968, when the Castletownbere based trawler sank in Kenmare Bay with the loss of five fishermen, that Sheila and a number of others began to campaign for a lifeboat to be based permanently in the town. On October 27th, 1997, amidst great celebrations, a 52ft Arun class lifeboat, the Roy and Barbara Harding, arrived into Castletownbere to take up station. At an event held in 2017 to mark the 20th anniversary of the lifeboat being stationed in the town, it was announced that in those 20 years, the lifeboat had launched over 200 times, rescued 288 people and saved 30 lives.
As well as campaigning for a lifeboat to be based in Castletownbere, Sheila was also actively fundraising on behalf of the RNLI over the years. With the announcement that Castletownbere would have its own lifeboat, Sheila was officially appointed fundraising secretary for Castletownbere Lifeboat.
Paul Stevens, crew member with the lifeboat said: ‘Over the years Sheila has literally raised hundreds of thousands of euro for the RNLI, the amount is just staggering.’ Key fundraising efforts Sheila has been involved in include a weekly lotto, which is jointly organised and shared with CoAction Beara, selling RNLI Christmas cards, the annual Christmas road bowling event, open days and a flag day during the local regatta in August, and overseeing fundraising events on behalf of the RNLI from groups and individuals throughout Beara.
In 2014, Sheila was awarded an additional bar to her gold badge for services to the RNLI. At the presentation ceremony for this, Mary Creedon, RNLI Community Fundraising Manager, Munster, said: ‘Sheila has worked tirelessly for the lifeboats, and is the driving force behind the Castletownbere branch. Starting out on her own, she has encouraged a great team to become involved in fundraising in Castletownbere.
‘She does not rest on her laurels but continues to increase the income each year. For her long commitment to the work of the RNLI, she is truly deserving of the Bar to her Gold Badge.’
An event to mark Sheila’s retirement and long dedicated service to the RNLI was held at the Castletownbere lifeboat station last week, at which Sheila received a number of presentations, and included the unveiling of a photo of her which will be permanently displayed at the lifeboat station.
Supporting the RNLI is very much a family affair for Sheila, her son Brian served as coxswain from 2000 to 2018, and Sheila’s retirement event also marked his promotion to Area Life Saving Area Manager of RNLI in Co Cork. Over the years, Sheila’s grandchildren, Christopher, Ciara and David have also served as crew members.
Commenting on her retirement, Sheila said, ‘It’s now time to let the younger generation take over, and we have a great crew and group of people involved in the lifeboat here in Castletownbere at the moment.’
Anne Finch has now been appointed fundraising secretary for the Castletownbere Lifeboat.
Over the August bank holiday weekend, the lifeboat will take part in the annual wreath-laying ceremony at the Berehaven harbour mouth.