Jul 12, 2022 | Featured Articles

A booklet that traces the history of the Irish Coast Guard from its establishment in January 1822 by a British act of parliament has been compiled by retired marine radio officer. Here’s a glimpse from Joe Ryan’s commemorative document of some special operations and the range of feats achieved by the Coast Guard in Ireland over 200 years.

The Irish Coast Guard’s role in combating smuggling, providing famine relief and gruelling night work at sea, which was “enough to kill a horse”, are recorded in Coast Guard Saving Lives in Ireland for 200 Years’ – a booklet marking the organisation’s bicentenary by Joe Ryan, who worked as an Irish Coast Guard officer from 1995 until his retirement in 2014.

He records how its first inspector general, James D’Ombrain, was of Huguenot stock and began construction of station houses in Co. Cork. By 1900, there were about 200 stations around the Irish coast, primarily to prevent smuggling but with a secondary lifesaving role.

The many former British navy ratings employed used their gigs and galleys to save lives prior to the establishment of RNLI stations – and often volunteered to crew RNLI lifeboats, he writes. From 1831, when D’Ombrain undertook an annual sail around Ireland, he witnessed the effects of famine on the west coast and was instrumental in organising relief.