THE world’s top adventurer Bear Grylls has lent his support to help save Ireland’s most famous lifeboat – which was involved in an attempt to save his great-grandfather’s life.
Grylls, who was born in Britain and spent much of his childhood in Co. Down, has backed a campaign to save the Sir Samuel Kelly, one of two lifeboats deployed to the MV Princess Victoria - a British boat that sank off the coast of the North of Ireland in 1953.
“I am delighted to express my support and extend my best wishes to the Sir Samuel Kelly Project,” said Grylls.
“I do so out of respect for the 133 passengers who were lost in the Princess Victoria tragedy of 1953. The dead include my great-grandfather Sir Walter Smiles at whose home in Donaghadee I spent many happy summer days as a boy.”
The Sir Samuel Kelly Project aims to have the lifeboat, which was retired in 1979, restored and displayed in a purpose-built museum, for which they will apply to the National Lottery for funding.
A temporary shelter is needed to allow the boat to dry out so the restoration process can begin. Funds of £15,000 to £20,000 would secure the boat’s future.
Grylls’ great-grandfather, Sir Walter Smiles, was an MP in the North of Ireland, with Grylls’ father also a politician in Britain.
Grylls himself joined the SAS for three years before kick-starting his TV career, as a survival expert.
He also expressed his admiration for the courage of lifeboat crews – like those who operated in the Sir Samuel Kelly.
The project aims to raise £500,000 to erect a permanent home for the boat in its hometown in Co Down.
“It will be a lasting reminder that we are all at the mercy of nature and of the need for preparedness and professionalism when saving lives at sea,” he added.