Late last week, I received a newsletter from the RNLI through my letterbox, informing me of recent Lifeboat-related rescues and fundraising events that have taken place on Irish and British shores. Its delivery couldn’t have been timelier.
A few weeks previously, author Liam Ryan was kind enough to post me a copy of a book for which he deserves enormous recognition, which honours nine Wexford men who lost their lives while trying to save others.
Nine of the 14-strong crew which boarded the Fethard-on-Sea Lifeboat (the ‘Helen Blake’) died while attempting to rescue the crew of the shipwrecked schooner named ‘Mexico’ on February 20th 1914.
Five days later, the local ‘People’ newspaper described the tragedy as “the greatest that has befallen along the Irish coast for upwards of a couple of centuries”. To this day, the Helen Blake tragedy remains the single worst loss of life in the history of the Lifeboat service on this island.
And thanks to Liam Ryan’s meticulously researched 62-page book, inspired by a project conducted by Poulfur National School, the gallantry of the Fethard crew, and their colleagues in Dunmore East, Rosslare and Kilmore, has been masterfully honoured.