The North West owes a ‘debt of gratitude’ to the late Pat Heaney whose pioneering efforts in establishing the Ned’s Point lifeboat station in Buncrana in 1988 has resulted in the salvation of dozens of lives over the past 30 years.
John McCarter, the current RNLI Lough Swilly Lifeboat Operations Manager (LOM) at Porthaw, has led tributes to his much-loved predecessor, Mr. Heaney, who sadly passed away at his home on Gollan Hill, Fahan, on Wednesday.
“It was Pat’s and Kate’s [the late Mr. Heaney’s wife and fellow lifeboat pioneer] huge work that first got the RNLI to come to Lough Swilly following the tragic loss of Phil Coulter’s brother in 1984.
“The RNLI has been there 30 odd years now and all that’s down to the initial pioneering work that they did in the 1980s. They enabled it.”
The Ned’s Point station was officially opened in July 1988 three and a half years after the late Brian Coulter tragically drowned in a windsurfing accident off Fahan on December 14, 1984.
The opening was the culmination of a passionate campaign for a proper rescue service for the commerical and recreational users of Lough Swilly, which Pat and Kate, pained at Brian’s avoidable death and concerned over the number of equally avoidable drownings in the expansive waterway over the years, had spearheaded.
Mr. Heaney became the station’s first LOM before moving to the role of Chairman in 1992.
“An awful lot of people have been rescued and many lives saved thanks to their efforts,” said Mr. McCarter.
“We’ve certainly rescued in excess of 750 people and we’ve actually saved over 50 lives. You can put that down directly to Pat and Kate.
“We owe them a great debt of gratitude.”
Thanks to Pat’s vision the station now operates one of the most modern boats in the fleet, a Shannon class lifeboat, which is, incidentally, the first such RNLI vessel named after an Irish river.
“It’s the only one in Ireland. And all of that is down to the work that the late Pat, and Kate, did in those early days,” said Mr. McCarter.
Mr. Heaney is mourned by his wife Kate, his children, Susan, Paula, Maeve and Fifi, and his grandson Jordon.
His funeral will take place at St. Mura’s Church, Fahan, at 11.00 a.m. this morning.