The son of a former Coxswain for the volunteer lifeboat crew for the Clifden RNLI was taken with his dad’s stories, that he tracked down and bought the first lifeboat that he served on.
Ronan Mullen, aged just 14, tracked the old C-class 522 inshore lifeboat from the time it left service in 1997, across the Irish Sea, and struck a deal to bring her home.
James Mullen, a Coxswain at Clifden RNLI with over 27 years voluntary service saving lives at sea on the west coast of Ireland is also a proud Dad to four boys who have inherited their father’s remarkable passion for the sea.
While James doesn’t have a favourite from among his five sons, he does very much have a favourite boat, the old C-class which was stationed in Clifden from 1989 to 1997.
The boat holds so many memories for him as a teenage RNLI recruit and when his sons would ask him for the history of the station and his favourite lifeboat, the stories he told them always came back to it.
Remembering his early crew years James said “I loved the sea, I had lived beside it my whole life and now finally, at 17 years old and with my parent’s consent, I was lifeboat crew.”
“We had many call outs on the C-class and she was an amazing boat, she was hard on the back but she never failed to bring us home. This craft was the finest money could buy and I was so impressed with her.”
“I remember a call one winter’s night in 1995, we were going to rescue a boat that had gotten into difficulty at sea. The weather was terrible with force 7-8 westerly winds. It was up to us and our trusty C-class inshore lifeboat to get everyone home safe.”
“As the seas got rougher, the C-class dug in deeper and when we were all safely back at shore I remember thinking what an incredible boat she was to stand up against those huge waves.”
Stories like these were what inspired young Ronan to see if he could discover what became of the boat after it left service.
His search over the internet first led him to the Ballyglass RNLI station in Mayo, after which it ended up in the RNLI Museum in Poole.
Finally, the faithful old boat ended up with a private owner in the UK, who also fortunately happened to be a member of the RNLI based in Weston-Super-Mare.
Ronan reached out to the owner, and after striking up a friendship, made a deal to buy the boat and bring it back to Clifden to the delight of the whole Mullen clan, Clifden RNLI crew and the many locals who remember her dutiful service.
“I was so shocked, I had been looking online for ages and when I finally came across a photo of the C-class I said to Dad, is that her? And he said, it definitely is,” Ronan said of his discovery.
“After that I knew we had to have that boat. I love the boat, I love being out on the water and the minute I am old enough I will be joining the RNLI.”
These days the lifeboat station in Clifden utilises an Atlantic 85 Inshore Lifeboat and the Shannon-class All Weather Lifeboat.
Next spring the station will receive delivery of a new Shannon Class vessel. a very special boat, for it will the names of 10,000 loved ones from the RNLI’s Launch a Memory campaign.
James concluded by saying it is wonderful to see another generation of lifeboat enthusiasts growing up.
“When I look at my four boys now I think, was I like they are now 27 years ago? Their whole life ahead of them and a future filled with love for the sea and the RNLI.”