seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Commissioning of the LÉ Deirdre (P20)

The Deirdre (P20), an offshore patrol vessel in the Irish Naval Service, is commissioned by Lt. Cdr. Liam Brett on June 19, 1972. The building of LÉ Deirdre marks a milestone in the development of the Naval Service, being the first ship purpose-built in Ireland to patrol in Irish waters. She is named after Deirdre, a tragic heroine from Irish mythology who committed suicide after her lover’s murder.

In 1971, a contract is signed with Verlome Cork Dockyard (VCD) to build an offshore patrol vessel for the Naval Service. Built in 1972, LÉ Deirdre is built as a replacement for the Ton-class minesweepers, and one of the first vessels custom-built for the Irish Naval Service. She has a longer range and is a more seaworthy ship for work in the Atlantic. LÉ Deirdre becomes the prototype for the later Emer-type vessels.

Deirdre undertakes a number of search and rescue operations throughout her career. For example, LÉ Deirdre is one of the vessels involved in the 1979 Fastnet race rescue operations, assisting the crews of two yachts. In 1990, during the rescue of a Spanish trawler crew in Bantry Bay, a member of LÉ Deirdre‘s crew dies and is posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and Spanish Cross of Naval Merit.

By the time of the vessel’s naval decommissioning in early 2001, LÉ Deirdre has travelled approximately 450,000 nautical miles. She is replaced by a Róisín-class patrol vessel.

Deirdre is sold at public auction for IR£190,000 to the English yacht chartering company Seastream International for conversion into the luxury charter yacht Tosca IV for the company’s owner, businessman Christopher Matthews. Speaking on the radio, a Seastream spokesman appears pleased with their bargain as they had been prepared to bid up to IR£500,000. The auction starting price had been IR£60,000.

The conversion in a Polish shipyard is not completed as the English owner is killed while piloting a Eurocopter EC130 helicopter which crashes at Sauk Prairie, Wisconsin after hitting power lines over Lake Wisconsin on August 6, 2004. In 2007 LÉ Deirdre is towed to Brazil for further refit and completion. Substantially complete, she arrives at Jacksonville, Florida in September 2012 for final outfitting as Santa Rita I. However, in August 2014, Santa Rita I is towed to Green Cove Springs, Florida, for breaking.