In 1861 the RNLI took over control of the lifeboat service from the Dublin Ballast Company and built a boathouse and slipway to house house the lifeboat. This can still be seen beside the National Yacht Club at the top of the East Pier in Dún Laoghaire. By 1890 there was a second lifeboat kept on moorings, but later housed in a new boathouse beside the Carlisle pier. In those days calls were signalled by flares, rockets, or word of mouth.
There are many stories told about the lifeboat service, but the most traumatic event occurred on Christmas Eve, 1895. A sailing ship, the Palme, had got into difficulties not far from shore and a lifeboat was sent out. Sadly the lifeboat capsized and all 15 of the crew were lost. It wasn’t until St. Stephen’s Day (26th December) that a successful rescue attempt could be made, during which all 20 of the Palme crewmembers and the ships cat were rescued.
The funeral of all 15 men, who are buried in Deans Grange cemetery was said to be the largest seen in Dún Laoghaire with flags lowered in all European ports.
At noon on Christmas Eve a piper leads a procession along the East Pier to commemorate those who were lost.
- Coxswain Alexander Williams, age 35, married with 6 children
- Henry Williams (his father and ex-coxswain), age 60, married with 3 sons (including Alexander)
- John Baker, age 33 married with 3 children.
- John Bartley, aged 45, married with two children.
- Edward Crowe, age 30, married no children.
- Thomas Dunphy, age 31, married 3 children.
- William Dunphy (his brother), age 40 married with 6 children.
- Francis McDonald, his son was born to his widow early in 1896.
- Edward Murphy, age 30, married with 3 children.
- Patrick Power, age 22, single.
- James Ryan, age 24, single.
- George Saunders, age 30, married 1 posthumous son born 8 months after his death.
- Francis Saunders (his brother), age 27, married with 5 children.
- Edward Shannon, age 28, married with 4 children.
- Henry Underhill, age 32 years, married, no children.