BY HELEN RIDDELL
ONE of Castletownbere RNLI Lifeboat’s main fundraisers, Vince Harrington, has hung up his collecting bucket after 30 years of service.
Vince, a native of Gour, Castletownbere, started fundraising for the RNLI following the tragic drowning a young Irish Navy sailor during a rescue in Berehaven in January 1990. Prior to this, locals had already been campaigning for a number of years to have a lifeboat based in Castletownbere.
On the night of January 30th, 1990, a Spanish trawler with 17 crew onboard was blown onto rocks near Roancarrig Lighthouse in a force 8 gale. The naval vessel LE Deirdre, which was anchored off Bere Island, deployed an inflatable boat with leading seaman Michael Quinn and able seaman Paul Kellet onboard. However, in treacherous sea conditions, their boat capsized. Paul Kellet managed to reach the shoreline, and flag down a passing Garda car. However, Michael Quinn tragically drowned in the incident.
‘There was no Irish Coast Guard helicopter service in those days,’ recalls Vince. ‘We relied on the RAF Sea King helicopters, but on that night a cargo ship was in difficulty off the Wexford coast, and an oil rig in the North Sea had to be evacuated, which meant the Sea Kings were diverted to those incidents.’
In a twist of fate, Vince’s brother Frank was working on the oil rig and was one of those winched to safety that night.
A Sea King helicopter did reach Berehaven two hours later, to join the Baltimore and Valentia lifeboats in the search, and rescue the crew of the Spanish vessel. The body of Michael Quinn was recovered the following morning. Following the tragedy, Vince joined others in actively fundraising for a lifeboat to be permanently stationed in Castletownbere. On October 27th 1997 the campaigning paid off when an RNLI Severn Class lifeboat arrived into Castletownbere to take up a permanent base in the town.
Vince was one of core local group who fundraised for the RNLI which included Donal O’Driscoll, Sheila O’Driscoll, Tommy Fitzpatrick and Marie Orpen. ‘We’d collect at local regattas and Fair Day in Kenmare on August 15th, you could get up to 15,000 people at that and everyone would donate something.’
His record collection day was at the 2018 Castletownbere Regatta when he collected a staggering €3,900 in 24 hours.
‘I spent the day and night collecting around the town and kept returning to the lifeboat station to empty my collecting bucket. People around here have always been generous where the RNLI is involved.’