Website established 1999  

Portaferry Lifeboat - History
RNLI Lifeboat House, The Strand, Portaferry, Co Down, Northern Ireland



Portaferry Lifeboat Station owes its origins to a RNLI lifeboat station that was established in 1884 at the village of Cloughey, Co. Down.

On the East Coast of Northern Ireland there are many hazards between Burr Island and Killard Point. They include the South and North Rocks, the Rig, the Butter Pladdy and half-tide rocks off Ballyquinton Point.

As a result of the large number of shipwrecks in the 19th Century it was decided to establish a lifeboat station at Cloughey (Cloghy) which at that time was a small coastal village on the Ards Peninsula, Co. Down.

A lifeboat station had been established earlier in 1865 at Ballywalter, some 10 miles further north.

The Cloughey Lifeboat Station was established by the RNLI in 1884 and its first lifeboat was called 'The Faith', commissioned in 1885.

1908 - Cloughey lifeboat crew after the rescue of 26 crewmen from the ship, Croisset

The crew of the Cloughey Lifeboat, 1908, after the rescue of the 26 crew of the 'Croisset'. Front row (seated on the four horse shafts): Jonny Young, George Drysdale, John Young, Davy John Young, Robert Young. Second row: Andy Young, Bob Young, Andy ( Lame ) Young. Third row: Edwin Cupman (Coastguard Captain) Robbie Young (Coxswain) John Beggs. Back Row: Four unidentified Coastguards 3 of whom are believed to be surnamed; Solway, Rose & Taylor.  (Note the four horse shafts for towing the lifeboat on her carriage)


In 1906 'The Faith' (ON94) was replaced by 'The John' (ON 553) which remained on service until 1931 when she was moved to the Newcastle Lifeboat Station, Co. Down.

Both vessels were sailing and pulling (rowing) lifeboats and had no engine. They were transported on a carriage pulled by horses onto the beach at Cloughey for launching.

In 1931 a self-righting motor vessel, the 'William Maynard' (ON746) was sent to the station.

The 'Herbert John' (ON825) replaced her in 1939 and she remained on service until 1952 when Cloughey Lifeboat Station received its last lifeboat, the 'Constance Calverley' (ON902).

The 'Constance Calverley' remained in Cloughey until the station closed in 1965.

Portavogie harbour then became the anchorage for a new lifeboat 'Glencoe Glasgow' (ON857) where she remained on service until 1978.

The Cloughey/Portavogie Lifeboat Station was officially closed in 1981.

Between 1884 and 1978 the Cloughey Lifeboat was called out on 152 rescue missions and saved no less than 311 lives.

The service record boards of Cloughey Lifeboat Station have been preserved and are on display in Portaferry Lifeboat Station.

For a more detailed account of the lifeboat history of the Ards Peninsula click here.

1950 - Cloghy lifeboat crew after the rescue of 7 crewmen from the South Rock Ligthship

The Crew of the Cloughey Lifeboat, the Herbert John, in 1950, following the rescue of the seven crew members of the South Rock Lightship. From Left: David Thompson (Hon. Sec.), Alex McNamara, Hugh Palmer, Jonny Gibson, Billy Bell, George M Young (Coxwain), George Coffey and Sam Adair. Photograph taken at the door to the station with the Herbert John in the background


1952 - Constance Calverley launched at Cloughey



1962 - Cloughey lifeboat, Constance Calverley, rescues captain and crew of the Dutch coaster, Frida Blokzij

7th March 1962 - The Cloughey Lifeboat, 'Constance Calverley' returning to rescue the captain of the Dutch coaster 'Frida Blokzijl' after bringing four of the vessel's crew safely ashore.

Prior to the closure of Cloughey Lifeboat Station representations had been made to the RNLI by Portaferry Sailing Club and others to maintain a lifeboat service in the area.

With the introduction of fast inshore lifeboats that were capable of making way against strong tidal currents, (such as currents up to 8 knots experienced in the Strangford Narrows) it was decided, in 1979, to place a single-engined 'C' class lifeboat in Portaferry for evaluation.

The lifeboat quickly proved to be a success and a twin engine 'D' class was commissioned and the Station officially established on 1st May 1980. The station was upgraded to 24 hour all year operation in 1982.

1980 - Honorary Secretary, Dr Billy Brown (centre) and Chief Helmsman, Desmond (Dessie) Rodgers (far right) with visiting RNLI officials

1980 - Honorary Secretary, Dr Billy Brown (centre) and Chief Helmsman, Desmond (Dessie) Rodgers (far right) with visiting RNLI officials in the old boat house


On 19th December that year a daring rescue was carried out at night in winds which increased from Gale 8 to Storm Force 10.

The casualty was the yacht Frieda, aground at Jane's Rock, Strangford Lough. One of the crew was rescued and a search for the second crew member was carried out amongst the pladdies in appalling weather conditions.

For their bravery that night, Chief Helmsman, Desmond Rodgers, was awarded the RNLI's Bronze Medal and his crew members, Billy Ellison and Francis Rogers, the RNLI's 'Thanks on Vellum'.

1982 - Portaferry's D class lifeboat in action on Strangford Lough

1982 Portaferry 's "D" class, braving the weather in Strangford Lough


Another memorable rescue was that of the twelve persons on board the converted fishing vessel 'Tornamona' which went aground and later sank in the early hours of Sunday 26th May 1985. The vessel had been on her way from Portaferry to the Isle of Man when she struck rocks near Killard point, at the entrance to Strangford Lough.

Two of those on board were world famous motor cycling champion Joey Dunlop and his brother Robert. Also on board was a cargo of eight racing motorbikes for use during the Isle of Man TT races.

As the vessel began to sink Portaferry Lifeboat arrived on scene to find eight persons in a liferaft and four others still on board. The Lifeboat took several persons to safety, assisted by the 'Cuan Shore' which had been on its way to the scene. Click here for press coverage

In December 1986 an 'Atlantic 21' fast inshore lifeboat was presented to the station by 'Blue Peter' a British Broadcasting Corporation children's television programme.

Children from throughout the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland raised the monies to provide this and other 'Blue Peter lifeboats'.

1984 Her Majesty The Queen Mother presents the Institution's Bronze Medal to Portaferry lifeboat's Chief Helmsman, Desmond Rogers

15th May 1984 - Her Majesty The Queen Mother presents the Institution's Bronze Medal to Chief Helmsman, Desmond Rogers, at the Royal Festival Hall, London.


1984 - Sir John Andrews, first President of Portaferry Lifeboat station, congratulates RNLI award winners Desmond Rogers, Francis Rogers and William (Billy) Ellison


The new lifeboat was named 'Blue Peter V' and with its close association with children was launched with a bottle of milk by a 10 year old girl, Paula Trainor.

Paula was chosen to launch 'Blue Peter V' as she was a descendant of the 'Young family' of Cloughey who had provided so many coxswains and crew members for the Cloughey lifeboat over many decades.

1986 - Paula Trainor at the launch of Portaferry's first Blue Peter lifeboat

December 1986, Paula Trainor (10) launched the first Portaferry 'Blue Peter' lifeboat, an Atlantic 21 named 'Blue Peter V'. Paula is shown holding the RNLI Bronze Medal (1924) of her great, great, grand uncle, Andrew Young and the RNLI Bronze Medal (1939)of her great grand uncle, George M Young.


In 1987 a lifeboat house was built, aided by monies raised through the Belfast Newsletter's Lord Louis Mountbatten Appeal Fund.

During the following years the station helped to pioneer the use of Decca and GPS navigation on inshore lifeboats as an aid to casualty location in poor visibility conditions and put this experience to practical use on several rescue missions.


1994 -Launch of Portaferry's Blue Peter V lifeboat

1994 - Tim Vincent of BBC 'Blue Peter', who handed over 'Blue Peter V', was presented with a photograph of Blue Peter V's crew by Adam Simms (6) and Caroline McVea (9).


In 1994 a new Atlantic 75 inshore lifeboat, also named 'Blue Peter V', replaced the Atlantic 21.

One of the saddest days in the history of the Portaferry Lifeboat Station took place on the night of 27 December 1994 when a small speedboat sank whilst on passage between Ballydornan and Kircubbin.   Six men were on board but sadly only one survived. For more information about the sad event please click here.

Records of all the services ('Shouts') for the past 20 years can be found on this web site.   Please click here or click on the 'Rescues' page on the appropriate menu bar.

Blue Peter V on exercise in Strangford Lough

The 2nd 'Blue Peter V' on exercise

On 6th June 2010 a new Atlantic 85 lifeboat was presented to the Station by 'CBBC Blue Peter' and once again named 'Blue Peter V'.

The new lifeboat carries a crew of 4 and has updated electronics such as radar and direction finding equipment.

In addition a newly built and enlarged boat-house to accommodate the larger lifeboat was opened.

The new boat-house has updated training and crew changing facilities.

Our Atlantic 85, 'Blue Peter V', is the lifeboat currently on station at Portaferry RNLI.

Our new Atlantic 85 lifeboat, our 3rd 'Blue Peter V'



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