Kieran Cotter retires from Baltimore Lifeboat after 45 years of service

Kieran Cotter retires from Baltimore Lifeboat after 45 years of service

Baltimore RNLI Coxswain Kieran Cotter on his last exercise before stepping down on December 30 after 45 years of service. Picture RNLI/Emma Lupton

KIERAN Cotter retired as Coxswain of the Baltimore Lifeboat on December 30 after 45 years of dedicated service.

The Cape Clear native leaves behind a great legacy following his distinguished career with the Baltimore Lifeboat. Kieran loved his time serving with his local lifeboat. 

“It is sad, but there is a time for everything. I have served my time. The years have gone by in the blink of an eye. Looking back, time is very short. I loved serving the local community and working with the RNLI. I enjoyed it. I have lots of great memories. There are also some sad memories, unfortunately,” he said.

Kieran joined the Baltimore Lifeboat at the age of 17 on January 1, 1975. Kieran followed in the footsteps of his father who was also a member of the local lifeboat as he recalls. 

“I was in college in Plymouth at the time and I was home for Christmas when I decided to join up. My father was also in the lifeboat. He had a lot of experience with fishing and sailing. I was used to small boats and navigating them out to Schull and Cape Clear. I was also in the Merchant Navy which helped me gain great knowledge of the water,” he added.

Socially distanced and by a fishing rod, Kieran Cotter hands over the lifeboat keys to Baltimore RNLI’s new Coxswain Aidan Bushe. Picture RNLI/Micheal Cottrell.
Socially distanced and by a fishing rod, Kieran Cotter hands over the lifeboat keys to Baltimore RNLI’s new Coxswain Aidan Bushe. Picture RNLI/Micheal Cottrell.

During his 45 years of service, Kieran received many awards for his roles in numerous rescues. He was awarded the Bronze Medal for gallantry and the Maud Smith award in 1991, after the rescue of the Japonica and her crew of 15. Kieran and his colleagues also received recognition from the Swiss Embassy in 2008 and the United States Congress in 2011, following successful rescue missions. Kieran, who took over as Coxswain in 1989, loved helping out within his local community. 

“The lifeboat provides an invaluable service in protecting the community. It does require a lot of dedication. It is no different from people involved in GAA or soccer clubs. When you join an organisation, you give a commitment and that is it. I will stay involved. I will become a Deputy Launching Authority. I will also get involved with the fundraising aspect which is vital for us as it is a voluntary organisation. I hope to stay involved in some capacity for another few years.” 

Mr Cotter has seen a huge transformation since he joined 45 years ago today. All the positive changes have played a huge role in protecting and saving lives he revealed.

“There have been lots of changes in the last 45 years. When I first joined, we had a boat that had two engines and they were 45 horsepower each. The water used to run in across the deck. Two members of the crew used to drive the engines and there was little or no shelter. Today we have a brilliant boat which has lots of computers, is very seaworthy and warm. Because of the huge investments in the boats and the constant training we receive, it is much safer today thankfully. There hasn’t been a fatality in the RNLI to the best of my knowledge since 1983.” 

The modest former member of the Baltimore Lifeboat has enjoyed several high-profile rescues, but he has also witnessed very tragic events during his career as a crew member as he recalled. 

“Unfortunately there were some very sad cases. The Tit Bonhomme tragedy claimed five lives in 2012, while on June 30, 2015, three people lost their lives at the Beacon in Baltimore after they were washed off the rocks. The rescues provide great memories. The rescue of the crew of the Rambler during the Fastnet Yacht Race in 2011 and the rescue of Charlie Haughey in 1985 stands out. That was a huge event that got massive publicity. They were very extremely lucky that night. It is nice to play our part in protecting people.” 

Another long-serving crew member Ronnie Carthy also retired this week after serving for almost 30 years. Aidan Bushe will now take over as the new Coxswain. Kieran is very confident the Baltimore Lifeboat will continue to provide a great contribution.

“The objectives remain the same, to protect and save lives. I am leaving behind a great crew. Aidan Bushe is taking over. He is extremely experienced and he is very good with people. We couldn’t do it without support from the local community. We are very thankful to the members of the local community for their generosity.”

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