End of an era at Wicklow RNLI as station mechanic Brendan Copeland retires

Lifeboats News Release

This week marks the end of an era at Wicklow RNLI as long serving crew member and station mechanic, Brendan Copeland officially retires from saving lives at sea.

Brendan Copeland

RNLI/Tommy Dover

Brendan Copeland retiring after 31 years service at Wicklow RNLI

Brendan’s last day started with a trip to Dun Laoghaire Harbour to bring Wicklow RNLI’s

all-weather lifeboat back to station after a lift out and hull clean. As the lifeboat was

departing Dun Laoghaire for Wicklow, a call came in regarding a motor cruiser that had

suffered engine failure in Dublin Bay. As Wicklow RNLI’s lifeboat was close by and the

motor cruiser was drifting in busy shipping lanes and a danger to traffic at Dublin port,

the lifeboat diverted to assist and was on scene in minutes. A tow line was quickly

established, and the cruiser was towed to the nearest safe port of Dun Laoghaire. Once

the boat and occupants were safely landed ashore, the crew returned to Wicklow and

Brendan quietly retired after 31 years with the RNLI, helping to save 23 lives and

assisting over 334 people.

Brendan, a former lighthouse keeper with The Commissioners of Irish Lights, joined

Wicklow RNLI as a volunteer in 1991. In the early years he served on both the all-

weather and inshore lifeboats as a crew member and emergency mechanic.

In 2007, Brendan was appointed Wicklow RNLI’s full time station mechanic, a position

he held for the last 15 years.

His role involved a wide range of duties that included maintaining the Tyne class

lifeboat, Annie Blaker, a labour of love he continued up to Friday 5 April 2019, when

she was officially retired as the last operating Tyne class lifeboat in the RNLI Fleet. At

the time former Lifeboat Operations Manager, Des Davitt said: ‘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.’

When asked in April 2019 how he felt prior to Annie Blaker launching for the final time

at Wicklow, Brendan replied: ‘You’re asking me if I’m sad or emotional today? I’m more

than that, I’m heartbroken, to borrow a quote used for the Blasket Islanders, “the likes

will never be seen again”.

While the Tyne lifeboat had twin propellors with a top speed of 18 knots, the new

modern Shannon class lifeboat which was to follow, was capable of 25 knots and

considered the fastest and most technologically advanced in the RNLI fleet.

To prepare for the arrival of the Shannon class, Brendan and a panel of mechanics

travelled to Poole for training on the new jet-propelled lifeboat powered by two Scania

engines. The training paid off and with great determination and huge commitment from

Brendan and the crew, the Shannon went on service much quicker than anticipated.


Brendan has gone to sea on countless call outs during his time with the lifeboat and

one shout that stands out to him occurred in the early hours of 22 March 2013 after a

fishing vessel with three crew lost power and was in danger of being washed ashore

east of Wicklow head. He recalled: ‘Annie was launched, and I can honestly say as we

went around the pier the sea was boiling. We managed to get a line to the boat which

was larger than Annie and towed it back to Wicklow, it felt like we were in a teapot that

was being shook to make the tea stronger.’

For their actions in bringing the vessel and three crew to safety, Brendan and the crew

received a letter of commendation from RNLI Operations Director Michael Vlasto.


Brendan took part in his last afloat exercise on the lifeboat on Saturday 28 May with his

volunteer team deciding to mark this milestone for their much-loved mechanic, who has

been a mentor, friend and the backbone of Wicklow RNLI for many years.

As Wicklow lifeboat returned to station, a flotilla of local boats and Arklow RNLI’s

lifeboat accompanied Brendan into Wicklow Harbour. From the East pier the arrival was

witnessed by a large turnout made up of Brendan’s family, friends and his lifeboat

family, while a lone piper played as the boat passed and the Dublin based Coast Guard

helicopter made a flypast. As the lifeboat reached the south quay berth, local

emergency services lined up in a guard of honour and sounded their sirens as the

lifeboat passed. Brendan was overwhelmed and thanked everyone.


Commenting on his retirement, Mary Aldridge, Wicklow RNLI Lifeboat Operations

Manager, said: ‘The crew and I wish you and Betty all the happiness in the world on

your well-deserved retirement. You have provided excellent service as a community

lifesaver with the RNLI since 1991, you will be severely missed at the station.’’

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.

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