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  • Writer's pictureGlenn Thompson

See What's Happening Now since a £90,000 Lottery Win for Sir Samuel Kelly! 🎉

Updated: Apr 30

Back in 2023 fantastic news reached our shores that the Sir Samuel Kelly Preservation Group based in Donaghadee, a non-profit company was awarded a £90,000 grant from the National Lottery.


I am one of their many supporters and was pleased to help them by preparing the planning application drawings for the new exhibition room in conjunction with Ards and North Down Borough Council.


I'm delighted to say that this historic lifeboat and exhibition room is now open to the public and I would encourage all of you to pay them a visit and show your support.


Sir Samuel Kelly Lifeboat | Donaghadee | GT Building Design
R.N.L.B. Sir Samuel Kelly located in Donaghadee, Co. Down

Donaghadee | Sir Samuel Kelly Lifeboat | GT Building Design
Planning Application Drawing, Permission granted!

Donaghadee | Sir Samuel Kelly Lifeboat | GT Building Design
Proposed New Exhibition Room by GT Building Design

Donaghadee | Sir Samuel Kelly Lifeboat | GT Building Design
The New Exhibition Room, April 2024


Donaghadee | Sir Samuel Kelly Lifeboat | GT Building Design

The Historic Lifeboat - Sir Samuel Kelly


The lifeboat currently rests adjacent to the Copelands Marina in Donaghadee, beside the exhibition room. This lifeboat has an iconic status because of its role in rescuing 33 people from the Princess Victoria disaster. It was stationed at Donaghadee from 1950 until 1976, after which it served in the reserve fleet in Ireland.


Donaghadee | Sir Samuel Kelly Lifeboat | GT Building Design
The Sir Samuel Kelly Lifeboat Crew

At the end of its service life it featured in the headlines again seeing action during the ill-fated Fastnet Yacht Race disaster in August 1979, whilst stationed at Courtmacsherry, Co Cork.


On retirement, the lifeboat was purchased by the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum and arrived back in Northern Ireland in 1980. Ownership of the boat transferred to council-run North Down Museum in late 2017.


During 2018, the Donaghadee Heritage Preservation Company signed a loan agreement for the Sir Samuel Kelly with Ards and North Down Borough Council in addition to a lease for the compound in which it is located. The company has restored the lifeboat to its 1953 state.


The campaign to save this most famous of lifeboats has also been supported by adventurer Bear Grylls, whose great grandfather, Sir Walter Smiles, was among 130 people who died in the tragedy.


Bear Grylls said:

“The restoration and preservation of the Sir Samuel Kelly lifeboat, and the construction of a heritage centre in Donaghadee to provide it with a permanent home, will create a fitting memorial to all those who were touched by the Princess Victoria tragedy. The dead include my great grandfather Sir Walter Smiles at whose home in Donaghadee I spent many happy summer days as a boy.”


My best wishes and gratitude go to everyone in the Sir Samuel Kelly Preservation Group and Donaghadee Heritage Preservation Company for all their hard work and ongoing commitment to this project. Glenn


Follow the link below for more information on the lifeboat and to keep up-to-date with what's going on.




Donaghadee | Sir Samuel Kelly Lifeboat | GT Building Design


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