The History of Portpatrick Lifeboat

The lifeboat we operate at Portpatrick, the ‘Mary Irene Millar’ (47-033) is a Tyne Class ALB (all weather) Lifeboat. The type was introduced in 1982 as a fast slipway boat, although at Portpatrick our boat is kept afloat at her mooring.

It’s features include the low profile appearance of wheelhouse to fit into existing boathouses, and separate cabin aft of upper steering position. The radio and radar assembly can be folded down for boathouse docking.

Capable of operating in all weather conditions, she is powered by twin, General Motors, six cylinder diesel engines, each producing 425hp giving a maximum speed of 17.5 knots and a range of 240 nautical miles. The boat’s watertight aluminium wheelhouse makes the boat self-righting, and isdesigned to self-right within 5 seconds in the event of knockdown.

Her internal compartments, each water tight, are divided into: the fore-cabin (survivors compartment, pyrotechnics and equipment storage and mini-galley) wheel house with seating for six crew and one medic, engine room, aft cabin (stretchers, survivors seats, equipment storage), plus two small maintenance compartments (one fore, one aft). An escape hatch opens from the engine room into the aft compartment, whilst a second escape hatch exits via the fore cabin roof.

The RNLB Mary Irene Millar lifeboat is equipped with VHF (fixed and portable) and MF radios, radar, VHF direction finder, echo sounders, intercom systems, Decca Navigator, GPS and a chart plotter.

The lifeboat is also equipped with two basket stretchers and a Neil Robertson stretcher, first aid equipment, a salvage pump, emergency rations, fire hose and general service pump, a small inflatable rowing boat, fire axe, blankets, night vision equipment, searchlights, breeches buoy, flares and rocket lines. Survivors are placed in either the fore or aft cabins.

A motorised capstan is situated on the fore deck to allow for hauling in anchors etc. Scramble nets are fitted to along her  starboard side. The boat is powered by two General Motors 6V-92-T1 two stroke turbocharged diesel engines, each producing 425hp @ 2200rpm.

The steering is by twin rudders, which have both power assisted and hand hydraulic controls. the engines draw fuel from two main tanks, each holding 510 gallons of fuel between them, and there is a reserve tank holding 102 gallons. Variable trim planes are fitted to alter the running trim in varying sea conditions. Length: 14.3m (47ft) Beam: 4.6m (15ft) Range: 240n. miles Crew: 6 Speed: 18 knots Displacement: Approx 24 tonnes
Fuel Tanks: 2 Main, 1 reserve.

The Portpatrick Lifeboat Station was established by the RNLI in 1877 at the request of the local residents. A lifeboat station was constructed on the north pier at a cost of £280. A crane was provided by local subscription for launching and recovery. The first lifeboat here was the Civil Service No.3. Launched 21 times, saved 41 lives.

On the 19th December, 1899, while the boat was being lowered into the water the crane hook broke and the boat fell into the water with such force it was damaged so badly it had to be replaced, in 1900 by Civil Service No.3 (er…no, we can’t figure that one out either!). Launched 18 times, saved 42 lives.

Read more about the history of Portpatrick

In 1907 a new crane was provided at a cost of £275. The year 1913 saw Coxswain James Smith Jnr being awarded the Institutions Silver Medal for gallantry in rescuing the crew of five from the SS Dunira of Glasgow which was wrecked off Dunskey Castle on the 15th December in that year.

The first motor lifeboat to be stationed at Portpatrick arrived on 8th April, 1922. The boat was named Maria, and was originally commissioned in 1909 at Broughton Ferry. Launched 10 times, saved 6 lives.

In 1929 the Maria was replaced by the J&W, commissioned on December 3rd. Coxswain John Campbell took her out for 12 hours in 1932 to rescue the crew of ten from the Belfast steamer Camlough. He was awarded the Institutions Bronze Medal for his skill and courage. Launched 14 times, saved 27 lives.

In 1937 the lifeboat Jeanie Spiers was commissioned on March 20th. Launched 67 times, saved 18 lives. The boat’s finest hour came in 1953.

The Princess Victoria, bound for Larne with 125 passengers and 49 crew, foundered approximately 4 miles NE of Mew Island with the loss of 130 lives in a full gale increasing to hurricane force, with snow squalls and a very rough sea.

The Coxswain, William McConnell, was awarded the British Empire Medal as well as The Mrs G.M. Porter Award for the Bravest Deed in 1953, and the Institutions Bronze Medal. Mechanic James Mitchell was awarded the Thanks of the Institution on Vellum in recognition of the service.

The Jeanie was commissioned on March 1st, 1961. Launched 89 times, this anonymously gifted boat saved 42 lives. She served until 1968, when the Douglas Currie arrived on station. Previously stationed at Kirkwall, Macduff and Fraserburgh where she had saved 20 lives. At Portpatrick she launched 22 times and saved 17 lives.

In 1989, 19th May, the station’s current boat, the Mary Irene Millar was commissioned at a harbour-side service attended by Princess Alexandra.
The boathouse was extended and modernised in 1993 to provide changing rooms, toilets & shower, crew training room and workshop at a cost of £88,000. Launched 150+ times to date, she has saved 67 lives.

Since inception in 1877 Portpatrick Lifeboats and Relief Boats have been  launched 476 times and saved over 299 lives.