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A MAJOR fund-raising campaign has been launched to save the Sir Samuel Kelly lifeboat which rescued survivors from the Princess Victoria in 1953 and the Fastnet yacht race disaster in 1979.

Supporters plan to restore The Sir Samuel Kelly and build a maritime heritage centre around the vessel in Donaghadee where it was stationed for 25 years and crewed by local volunteers from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution – the charity that saves lives at sea.

Campaign spokesman, former lifeboat crewman, Ken Walsh, said: “The Sir Samuel Kelly is an important part of Ireland's maritime heritage and is on the UK’s National Historic Ships register. Restored it will be a lasting memorial to the people who were lost in the Princess Victoria and Fastnet tragedies. It will also be a fitting tribute to the bravery of the RNLI crews who daily risk their lives to save others. "With public support we believe we can raise the £500,000 needed to save this famous lifeboat and build her a fitting home in a town where she is cherished."

A public meeting to launch the campaign was held in Donaghadee community centre, on April 2 and was well attended. At the meeting Ken Walsh explained the background to the project and the Group’s architect, Fraser Bell, gave a detailed presentation on the design of the proposed centre, including artists impressions.

Anyone interested in the project is invited to register their interest by completing an Expression of Interest Form <click here> and returning it by email to info@visitdonaghadee.com.