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Courtmacsherry RNLI to feature in BBC documentary

Posted on July 24, 2012 at 5:15 PM
Jeremy Paxman films with Courtmacsherry RNLI. Photo : RNLI/Courtmacsherry

Author: Nuala McAloon, RNLI Press Officer for Ireland at Divisional Base.

Courtmacsherry RNLI recalled the lifeboat's involvement in the aftermath of the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 this week.

The charity’s volunteer crew welcomed BBC presenter Jeremy Paxman to the Cork station on Monday afternoon as the start of filming a sequence for a four-part documentary series about Britain and the First World War got underway.

The series is expected to be shown on BBC1 in 2014.


Brian O’Dwyer, the Lifeboat Operations Manager at Courtmacsherry welcomed Mr Paxman to the station:

‘We were delighted to have him here,’ he said. ‘The BBC’s presence is testament to the efforts of the men who rowed for three hours to come to the assistance of those in danger. And it is nice to know that that tradition is still alive and well in Courtmacsherry today.’

The crew led by Coxswain Sean O’Farrell accompanied Mr Paxman and the BBC team on the lifeboat with filming taking place at Barry’s Point to the west of the Old Head of Kinsale.

In an interview for the documentary, Sean took the opportunity to reflect on the RNLI’s role and the tragic events of that day.

‘I gave a lifeboat man’s perspective on the loss of life during war time which goes against the grain of all we do and what we are about in saving lives at sea. I was able to show Jeremy the original return of service from the Courtmacsherry lifeboat on the day which gives a poignant account of the scene from the Rev. Canon Forde, the Honorary Secretary at the time’.

The return of service explained how at 2.25pm on 7 May, 1915, Canon Forde received a message that a large steamer was sinking about 12 miles off the Seven Heads.


He rushed from where he lived at Lislee house Presbytery to the lifeboat station which was then based at Barry’s Point to alert the crew.


At 3pm, the lifeboat launched under Coxswain Timothy Keohane.

The crew were Mike Keating, John Maloney, Mike Flynn, Pat Flynn, Pat Madden, John Murphy and his son Jerry, Con Whelton and his son also named Con, Paddy Crowley, David Moloney, John Keohane, Lar Maloney, and John Maloney. The lifeboat was a rowing and sailing boat called Keza Gwilt.


‘We had no wind so had to pull the whole distance,’ Canon Forde wrote. ‘On the way to the wreck we met a ships boat crowded with people who informed us the Lusitania had gone down. We did everything in our power to reach the place but it took us at least three and a half hours of hard pulling to get there and then only in time to pick up dead bodies.

‘The Queenstown boat reached the wreck towed by a steam trawler almost together with us and we all with other boats there then remained until about 8.40 engaged in that work. We were towed back portion of the way by a steam drifter and reached the boat house about 1 o’clock am.

‘Everything that was possible to do was done by the crew to reach the wreck in time to save life but as we had no wind it took us a long time to pull the 10 or 12 miles out from the boathouse which we had to go. If we had wind or any other motor power our boat would have been amongst the first on the scene. It was a harrowing sight to witness; the sea was strewn with dead bodies floating about some with lifebelts on others holding on pieces of rafts, all dead. I deeply regret it was not in our power to have been in time to save some. I went with the boat to the wreck also Mr Montifort Longfield, member of our local committee and did what we could. The boat was 10 hours on service.’

Categories: RNLI News