Greencastle Coast Guard Station


In 1988, the Greencastle Unit consisted of twelve volunteers drawn from all walks of life. The team trained every 2 weeks under the direction of Captain Peter Brown. Training developed skills in cliff climbing and shore searching techniques. Part of the training involved working closely with HM Coastguard in Northern Ireland and many joint training exercises took place, including Rathlin Island, November 1989 and Greencastle, April 1991.

A piece of apparatus which had to be mastered was the ‘Breeches Buoy’. This was a life-ring fitted with a pair of breeches or trousers which could be passed out to a boat that may have grounded on rocks close to the coast. Firstly, a special type of rocket with a line attached was fired out over the vessel. Those on board took the line and pulled the rest of it out from the shore. A heavy line attached to the shore end was passed out to the boat and made fast to a high point. The shore end of the line was made fast and the line was then tightened up. The breeches buoy was attached to a special travelling pulley block and could be passed out to the vessel. One person from the vessel sat into the breeches and the breeches could be brought back to shore. The breeches could be passed out to the boat over and over again until all crew had been taken off. (This equipment was discontinued in the late 1990s.)

In 1991, the unit received its first inflatable work boat. 6 members of the team undertook a boat handling course in Wicklow. The boat was called a ‘Support Boat’ and was used in that capacity as a support to the operations on the cliff or coast. In 1995 the first support boat was replaced by a D-class inshore lifeboat type inflatable. In 1999 the Unit also got a 7.9m Delta RIB.

In 1994, each member of the team was issued with a ‘pager’ which can be activated by the Coast Radio Station to call the team members to the station in the event of an incident.

In 1996, there was a new station house built in Greencastle. A slipway was added to the rear of the station in 1999. The station was further extended in 2000 and currently provides suitable accommodation for the Unit’s 2 vehicles, ATV, 2 boats (D-class & Delta) and other equipment.

Greencastle Unit was host to the inaugural Joint Search and Rescue (JSAR) Games in May 2006. This has since become an annual event. The Unit also held the first Trans-Atlantic Games in May 2009. This event involved many different Search and Rescue (SAR) agencies from the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Canada.

The Unit went live with the new ‘Soft-Day’ climbing system in March 2010.

The station took delivery of a new 9m Delta RIB in July 2011.

Greencastle Unit currently has 25 volunteer members.


- Greencastle Lifeboat
- HM Coastguard
- Coast Life Saving Service
- Coast and Cliff Rescue Service
- Irish Marine Emergency Service
- Irish Coast Guard

For hundreds of years Greencastle has been an established fishing port. Unfortunately, where there are boats there are incidents, accidents and even disasters. History is littered with examples of this. Inishowen Maritime Museum compiled a list of people from the Inishowen area who died at sea. One of the worst disasters to occur in the area was recorded in 1772 and is known as ‘Black Saturday’. In this incident the entire fishing fleet out of Lough Foyle were lost. Over one hundred men were lost that day and only one survivor was reported.

Greencastle had a Lifeboat Station from 1864 to 1928. From this time the station was re-sited at Portrush where it is to the present day.

HM Coastguard established station in Greencastle in the 1850s. The original building is still in existence to this day and the centre building is now home of the Inishowen Maritime Museum. At one end of the main CG building there was a storehouse for the two-wheeled horse-drawn rocket-cart. The original rocket–cart from this period is now an exhibit in the museum.

With the establishment of the Irish Free State in the 1920s, the old Coastguard equipment and buildings were renamed the “Coast Life Saving Service” (CLSS) was run by the Department of the Marine and manned by local volunteers from the community. They trained regularly and an Inspector from the Department would have travelled to Greencastle to oversee their progress.

This service was still operational when, in 1986, a local fisherman was drowned within yards of the shoreline near Greencastle. This tragedy focused attention on the lack of an adequate sea rescue service in this area. As a direct result, pressure was brought to bear on the Department of the Marine. This pressure led to the Department re-organising the CLSS. In 1988 the present team was formed under a new name “Coast and Cliff Rescue Service” (CCRS).

Irish Marine Emergency Service (IMES) was established and named by Government Decision in 1991. This arose from a recommendation of the 1990 Report of the Review Group on Air/Sea Rescue (Doherty Report) for the establishment of a new Division of the Department of the Marine to take over the activities of the Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre, the Coast Radio Service, marine radio engineers and CCRS. Each CCRS unit was now referred to as an IMES Unit or IMES Coastal Response Unit. Since 1991, the national and international marine emergency management functions of IMES have been added to on an on-going basis.

On 25th January 2000, the Government agreed to a proposal from Dr. Michael Woods TD, then Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources, that the IMES would be known as the Irish Coast Guard. This reflected the range of responsibilities which have long been part of the IMES remit and which are consistent with Coast Guard functions around the world.

The Coast Guard has delegated responsibility for marine emergency management in the Irish Search and Rescue Region and the Irish Pollution Zone. This includes search and rescue; search and recovery at sea, in coastal areas, inland rivers, lakes and waterways; pollution control; salvage and wreck; safety awareness; provision of a commercial radio communications service.

Contact Information
t: 086 0748282

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