Coxswain’s son buys old Clifden RNLI lifeboat after hearing dad’s rescue stories

Lifeboats News Release

A dad’s passion for the old Clifden RNLI lifeboat he served on, passes to the next generation


Clifden lifeboat crew at the old D-class station in 1995, when James was 18 years old

James Mullen, a Coxswain at Clifden RNLI with over 27 years voluntary service saving lives at sea on the west coast of Ireland is also a proud Dad to four boys who have inherited their father’s remarkable passion for the sea, the RNLI and everything to do with boats. It’s this passion which inspired James’s son Ronan (age 14) to track down and buy the very first lifeboat his father helmed back in 1996.

James claims to not have a favourite child, but he does have a favourite boat; the C-class 522 inshore lifeboat which was stationed in Clifden between 1989 and 1997. The boat holds so many memories for him as a teenage RNLI recruit and when his sons would ask him for the history of the station and his favourite lifeboat, the stories he told them always came back to the C-class.

Remembering his early crew years James said: “I loved the sea, I had lived beside it my whole life and now finally, at 17 years old and with my parent’s consent, I was lifeboat crew. We had many call outs on the C-class and she was an amazing boat, she was hard on the back but she never failed to bring us home. This craft was the finest money could buy and I was so impressed with her.

“I remember a call one winter’s night in 1995, we were going to rescue a boat that had gotten into difficulty at sea. The weather was terrible with force 7-8 westerly winds. It was up to us and our trusty C-class inshore lifeboat to get everyone home safe. As the seas got rougher, the C-class dug in deeper and when we were all safely back at shore I remember thinking what an incredible boat she was to stand up against those huge waves.”

James’ beloved C-class was retired from service and left Clifden in 1997 but not much was known about her fate after that, so young Ronan, inspired by his father’s stories, embarked on an internet search to track her down. Through various searches and online forums Ronan established that the lifeboat went from Clifden, to Ballyglas RNLI (Mayo) for a short period, from there to the RNLI Museum in Poole and eventually, to a private owner in the UK.

Ronan located and struck up a friendship with the owner, who happened to be a fellow RNLI crew member based in Weston-Super-Mare. Eventually, a deal was done, Ronan purchased his father’s favourite old lifeboat and the family brought her back to Clifden to the delight of the whole Mullen clan, Clifden RNLI crew and the many locals who remember her dutiful service.

Ronan (age 14) describes the moment he found a photo of the lifeboat online, “I was so shocked, I had been looking online for ages and when I finally came across a photo of the C-class I said to Dad, is that her? And he said, it definitely is. After that I knew we had to have that boat. I love the boat, I love being out on the water and the minute I am old enough I will be joining the RNLI.”

James concluded: “Our station has grown a lot over the years thanks to the dedication of our volunteer crew, we now use an Atlantic 85 Inshore Lifeboat, a Shannon-class All Weather Lifeboat and are awaiting delivery of a very special boat next Spring. Our new Shannon Class ALB is being built at the moment and when she comes to Clifden she will carry the names of 10,000 loved ones from the launch a memory campaign.

“It’s a wonderful thing to see the next generation of lifeboat enthusiasts coming up, when I look at my four boys now I think, was I like they are now 27 years ago? Their whole life ahead of them and a future filled with love for the sea and the RNLI.”



The Mullen Family; Cian (12), Ronan (14) Liam (9) and Enda (6) and Dad James in their C-class 522, pictured with Clifden RNLI Shannon Class All Weather Lifeboat in Clifden Bay

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.