End of an era as crowds turn out in Wicklow to bid farewell to Annie

Wicklow RNLI have said goodbye to their beloved lifeboat Annie Blaker, the last Tyne Class lifeboat in the RNLI’s fleet. The final launch took place on Sunday in front of a huge crowd, which lined the pier at Wicklow. The station was joined by Dun Laoghaire and Arklow RNLI who made the journey to join a flotilla of local boats which led Annie Blaker out of the harbour and on to her final voyage.

The Tyne class lifeboat has been retired by the RNLI as it has been replaced by faster classes of lifeboats capable of up to 25 knots; the Tyne class could reach 18 knots at full speed. The Tyne all-weather lifeboat was the first fast slipway-launched lifeboat in the Institution.

The lifeboat station opened early in the morning for the public to come down and look around the historic lifeboat before she left. At 1.30pm to the sound of loud applause, John Sillery, Head Launcher with Wicklow RNLI, struck the pin which released the lifeboat down the slipway and out onto the water. Onboard the lifeboat were Coxswain Nick Keogh and Station Mechanic Brendan Copeland along with volunteer lifeboat crew picked from the station for the special voyage.

As well as the visiting lifeboats the flotilla was made up of Wicklow’s two current lifeboats, the D Class and the Relief Shannon, the Garda Water Unit, Wicklow Swimming Club and the Vartry Rowing Club, who saluted the lifeboat by raising their oars in tribute as it passed them.

The Tyne class lifeboat was officially retired from the RNLI at the Wicklow lifeboat station on Friday 5 April after 30 years’ service there. During that period, the lifeboat was launched over 348 times on callouts and rescued 408 people. The Tyne was introduced into the RNLI fleet in 1982 with the final one built in 1990. While the last Tyne is at Wicklow, there have been Tyne class lifeboats on service in Ireland at Arranmore, Lough Swilly, Kilmore Quay and Baltimore.

Speaking at the event, Wicklow RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager Des Davitt commented: ‘It has been an incredibly emotional day for everyone in Wicklow RNLI. We have been contacted by people near and far with their memories of the Tyne. She has been an incredible lifeboat and is in every sense, another member of the crew. To see so many of the old lifeboat crew turn up to say goodbye was a particularly touching for everyone here.’

‘I am so grateful to everyone involved with Wicklow RNLI. I want to pay a special thanks to our station mechanic Brendan Copeland who looked after Annie so well for all these years. Her incredible life-saving record is a measure of how well she was maintained.’

The Annie Blaker lifeboat was replaced by the relief Shannon class lifeboat Jock and Annie Slater, which went on station on Friday 5 April. The lifeboat leaves to travel to Portishead where she has been sold privately.

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