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Medal for rescue
Dear Tony,

According to family lore, one of my ancesters who was a fisherman from Brandon on the Dingle Peninsula received a medal for rescueing a relative of Queen Victoria from drowning. Unfortunately, the medal was donated to our parish church during a fundraising drive many years ago. Do you have any ideas as to how I can go about finding out if there is a record of such an award. Although this is a Coast Guard site, I hope you don't mind a question about a civilian.

Thanks for any help.

Sandy Stegmayer
Posted on Sandy's behalf by Tony
Come on then, give us a clue. How about the name of the ancestor.
Edited by HughVaugh on 01/03/2008 19:57
All the Best


Thanks Tony for posting my inquiry. You're right Hugh, a name would help. I am pretty sure the surname would be Fitzgerald with the given name probably Garrett, Patrick, or John. There is a slim chance however the surname is (O')Neill. The rescue most likely took place prior to 1865 because that is approximately when my family came to Holyoke, Massachusetts.
I would appreciate any comments/help.
Hi Sandy

I'm not sure if this is your man, perhaps you have some additional family information that may confirm or prove otherwise, but a P Fitzgerald, a fisherman, won the Royal Humane Society Bronze medal on 1/10/1857 for a rescue at Castlegregory Island (RHS Case No. 16093).

If you think this might be your man you can contact the RHS who will provide details of the citation - for a fee. By the way I believe Castlegregory Island is off the Dingle Peninsular.

Below is their website link:

All the best, and please let us know the outcome.


Edited by crimea1854 on 02/03/2008 22:36
Hi Martin,

I think I'm in love with you. For ages I've been searching for any info about the medal. If Castlegregory Island is in the Brandon Bay area, this is probably my g-g-grandfather. The time is reight. Now all I need to do is find some place over here where I can get an international money order. I will definately let you know the results when I hear from the RHS. I can't thank you enough!


While trying to assist you I found a man that I have been researching was awarded the RHS Bronze Medal in the same year as Fitzgerald, although the actual rescue took place the year before. The Information from the RHS arrived today.

Patrick Sweeney had previously served aboard HMS Rodney during the Crimea War, and formed part of the Naval Brigade ashore, for which he was awarded the Crimea Medal, with the Sebastopol clasp – this is in my possession.

In 1856 he joined HMS Elk as an Able Seaman. It was while he was aboard Elk that he and another seaman, Robert Wright, jumped in to the sea to rescue a William Newland (Boy), who had fallen overboard from the same ship. This event took place on 15th November 1856 in the Straits of Banco, off Singapore. His RHS medal was not awarded until the RHS Committee met on the 18th February 1857.

At the outbreak of the 2nd China War in 1857, HMS Elk joined the naval force present off Canton.

One of the ships boats from HMS Elk took part in the attack on fifty war junks moored in Fatshan Creek. I know that Sweeney was present, because it was only men in the boats who were awarded the Fatshan clasp to the China Medal.

Sweeney also took part in the attack on Canton as part of the Naval Brigade, where he was slightly wounded when the Naval Brigade stormed the walls, helping capture the city.

Unfortunately I have neither his China, nor now his RHS Medal, so I’m hoping that one day all three may be reunited.

Out of interest Sweeney became a Coast Guard in Cheshire in 1862; the 1881 Census has him on a pension in Birkenhead.

So thank you. Without me looking for your man it is unlikely that I would have added another piece to my particular jigsaw.

Regards Martin
I was interested to see your query about your ancestor. I am writing a book on Irish lifesaving medals and have brief details on the rescue concerned, extracted from the RHS records. Details are as follows:
Fitzgerald, Patrick. Occupation Fisherman. Awarded the RHS bronze medal.
Award: On 1 October 1857 Daniel Coffey (22), a labourer from Castlegregory, accidentally fell out of a boat at Castlegregory. Patrick Fitzgerald, from Brandon, rushed into the surf, swam to his assistance and saved him, being him ashore in an unconscious state. The rescue was witnessed by Hugh Cooper, Comptroller-General of the Coastguard, and Constable Gorman. Fitzgerald’s medal was sent to the Coastguard Office on 1 January 1858 for presentation to him. RHS case no. 16093.

I have no biographical information on him so would very much welcome any factual information you may have.

Best regards

Roger Willoughby
Roger Willoughby
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