An impressive 109 years after it was first commissioned, the General R Dudley Blake Lifeboat has made its way back, after a colourful life, to its spiritual home of Blackrock.
The General R Dudley Blake Lifeboat made its return on Sunday, exactly 24 years to the day since it was in Blackrock in 1994. Jason McGee of the Blackrock Tourism and Development Group spoke about the rich history of the lifeboat and its journey since 1909.
“The first lifeboat station in Dundalk Bay was established in 1859 following the loss of the Mary Stoddart in 1858. Lord Clermont erected the Life Boathouse and there were four lifeboats there from 1859 to 1935 with the last two, 35ft long, lifeboats both named the General R. Dudley Blake. The RNLI commissioned The General R Dudley Blake (2nd) Lifeboat for £892, which would be the equivalent of €800,000 or thereabouts these days.”
The General R Dudley Blake served as a lifeboat in Blackrock Boathouse until 1935 for twenty-six years. It was then decommissioned as a lifeboat because of motorised boats. The Blackrock Boathouse was shut down and the lifeboat service was moved to Clogherhead and Newcastle, Co. Down.
Jason McGee provided an account for her activities after 1935.
“She journeyed round to Limerick in 1938 and served as a lobster boat from 1938 to 1947. Then the lifeboat moved to Howth. The Cyril Doyle family took over ownership and for reasons unknown to us the name was changed to the ‘St Therese’. It is supposed to be unlucky to change the name of a boat. The lifeboat was used for tourists to Howth Head from 1947 to 1994. Then in 1994 the RNLI contacted the Doyle family to borrow the boat for a fundraising event in Blackrock. That was 24 years to the day when The General R Dudley Blake Lifeboat made its return on 23rd June 2018 to Blackrock.
“The life boat was still sea worthy back then and RNLI did tours around the bay back in 1994 for two days. It then went back to Howth. It was decommissioned in 2006 and went ashore in Kildare. From Kildare it went to Wexford in 2014; it was out of the water at Loftus Hall. We, at the Blackrock Tourism and Development Group, approached Mark Doyle to buy the lifeboat because we recognised it as a historical piece.
“We want to bring the lifeboat back to its spiritual home in Blackrock. Our plan over the next couple of years is to restore the vessel to its former glory – doing woodwork restoration etc. Then, we would like to put the boat on display in a museum that has yet to be built in Blackrock.”