THE GROUP safeguarding the Sir Samuel Kelly lifeboat has won a lottery grant of £90,000.
And they’ve also got planning permission for a new temporary exhibition hall, to be built next to the current home of the lifeboat in Donaghadee.
The lifeboat is a major part of the town’s maritime history, famously saving the lives of three-quarters of the survivors of the Prince Victoria ferry disaster in 1953.
It’s currently owned by the Donaghadee Heritage Preservation Company, which has long-term ambitions to build a permanent visitor centre detailing its history and preserving it for future generations.
The non-profit company is to receive £90,000 over two years from the National Lottery, which will be spent on a temporary exhibition room with educational digital and static displays.
The temporary exhibition room was granted approval at a meeting of Ards and North Down Council’s Planning Committee last week, and will be built next to the current home of the lifeboat in Copelands Marina car park.
Planning officials stated that the new exhibition room will help protect what was described as a ‘marine heritage asset’, and could also boost tourism.
The lottery grant will also support the employment of a part-time heritage outreach officer to engage with the local community, including clubs and schools, to increase awareness of the rich history and culture of Donaghadee.
Said Donaghadee Heritage chair, Alan Couser: “The exhibition room will be another step towards the creation of a permanent heritage and visitor centre for Donaghadee, which has always been the company’s long-term objective.
“It will be in effect a prototype in miniature of the eventual Kelly Centre, where we shall be experimenting with different sorts of displays to see which work best for visitors to Donaghadee and for local people and, importantly, schoolchildren.
“We want the Kelly Centre to be an educational resource as well as a destination of interest for visitors from home and abroad.
“We shall be using the experience of the next two years to learn what works and what doesn’t, to inform the design of the eventual Centre and to build the business case for that investment.”
The non-profit has worked closely with the council on the Sir Samuel Kelly project, with the local authority helping them sort out a lease on the lifeboat as well as owning the site where it’s currently housed.
“Ards and North Down Borough Council is delighted to support Donaghadee Heritage Preservation Company in accepting this grant,” said council arts and heritage manager Emily Crawford.
“The council recognises that the company has dedicated significant time and effort to the preservation of one of our borough’s most important heritage assets.
“Securing this grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund marks a significant next step in the plans to preserve and tell the story of the Sir Samuel Kelly Lifeboat.”
The lottery heritage fund’s Northern Ireland director, Paul Mullan, added: “It is fantastic news that, thanks to National Lottery players, we have been able to support Donaghadee Heritage Preservation Company to engage local communities and visitors with the Sir Samuel Kelly Lifeboat and its story and learn more about Donaghadee’s rich heritage.
“We know that heritage in Northern Ireland can play a huge role in bringing people together and creating a sense of pride in people’s hometowns and cities.”