Skerries Coast Guard attended today’s ceremony to mark the official unveiling of the Sea Memorial by President Higgins. A large crowd gathered from early morning at the memorial site at Red Island, Skerries and as the ceremony began at 11:30, crowds lined the barriers, eager to catch a glimpse of the proceedings. Several representatives from other services were present including the Naval Service, the Air Corps, RNLI, Gardai, Civil Defence, and Fire Brigade. The Director of the Irish Coast Guard, Chris Reynolds, also attended the ceremony.
The ceremony began with a dramatic aerial display by the Coast Guard’s Dublin based Sikorsky S61N rescue helicopter. The Sikorsky helicopter, with its striking red and white markings, swept gracefully across the sky, awakening distant memories of the hundreds of past rescues and searches carried out by the Coast Guard service along the local coastline. Rounding off the aircraft display was an impressive flypast by the Air Corps CASA CN235 Military Patrol Aircraft, another key search and rescue resource.
President Higgins arrived shortly before 12:00, to the sprightly tunes of local man Master Nollaig McCarthaigh playing the Uileann Pipes.
President Higgins was formally welcomed to Skerries by Mayor Dennison and the President then delivered a rousing, memorable speech, including praising the considerable local effort and dedication in bringing the memorial to completion. After officially unveiling the commemorative plaque, President Higgins met with the family members who had lost loved ones to the sea and also the services present.
The above photo from local paper, North County Leader,shows President Higgins with (from L-R) Mayor Dennison, members of Skerries Coast Guard, Irish Coast Guard Director Chris Reynolds, Air Corps personnel and members of Skerries RNLI.
The old Skerries Coast Guard Rocket Cart made a special appearance and was on display all day near the memorial. The cart was formerly used since the 19th century to haul the Appartus rescue equipment to the scene of a shipwreck. The Coast Guard cart was making a historic first return to Skerries town since it was formally decommissioned several decades ago.
The Coast Guard have a particular interest in the design of the memorial as it features a former Coast Guard Apparatus Pole as its centrepiece. The Coast Guard pole featured in the memorial is one of three that used to stand tall on the Red Island headland at Skerries, used for training purposes by the local Coast Guard to simulate a distressed ship’s mast. In a bygone era, before helicopters, the Breeches Buoy rescue system was the primary land based method used to save stricken sailors from a foundered ship.
As the names of all those lost were read out by local school children, two members of the Skerries Coast Guard team laid a commemorative wreath at the memorial, in memory of all those lost to the sea.
In particular, the Coast Guard remembers the loss of Albert Anning, a fellow Coast Guard stationed at Skerries who was drowned in February 1873 during the attempted rescue of the shipwreck, “Sarah Ann” in Balbriggan. The Sarah Ann was a Runcorn Schooner laden with a 100 Tonne cargo of coal that foundered on the rocky coastline. Albert Anning was assisting with the manning of the RNLI Lifeboat that bravely set out from Skerries that fateful night. Following the Lifeboat’s capsize in the ferocious stormy seas off the Balbriggan shore, Albert tragically drowned along with the six Lifeboat men on board.
The Fingal County Council Events team and Dublin Civil Defence were onsite with their mobile command and control unit.
Skerries Coast Guard’s photos from the event are available in our online gallery.
The ceremony was also reported by the print media including the Irish Times, Irish Independent, Fingal Independent and North County Leader.
Skerries Coast Guard – a voluntary rescue unit of the Irish Coast Guard