Selected Newspaper Articles:
on Carrauntoohil" The Kerryman,
"Visitor Killed in Cliff
Fall" Evening Press, 4/9/70
"Girl is Saved on Mountain"
Evening Press, 13/9/72
"Dawn Rescue for Stranded
Mountaineer" Sunday Press,
"Girl freed after five
hours trapped under rock" Irish
"Doctor Dies on Kerry Mountain,
while Three Climbers Cheat Death in Avalanche"
Irish Independent, 24/2/86
"Night of Terror for Germans"
The Kingdom, 20/9/88
"Mystery of the Missing
Climber" The Kerryman, 29/9/89
"English Climber Stretchered
to Safety from the Reeks" Cork
"Stranded! Night of Terror
on Kerry Mountain" Kerry's
"Elderly Tourist in Death
Fall" The Kingdom, 14/7/92
"Fall Victim's Miracle
Rescue" The Kingdom, 12/1/93
"Death on Mountain"
Kerry's Eye, 7/4/94
"Boy Killed in Fall from
Mountain Ridge" The Independent,
"Saved! Teenagers found
after 24 hour mountain ordeal" Irish
Easter 1966 was a tragic holiday period in Kerry. Within a few
days of one another, a student from University College Dublin
and a teenage member of an English school party were killed in
separate incidents on Carrauntoohil, Ireland's highest peak. It
was as a direct result of these two tragedies that the Kerry Mountain
Rescue Team was formed in July of that same year, largely as a
result of the vision and energy of Frank Lewis of Killarney. The
Team at that stage consisted of a group of concerned people, not
expert rock climbers, but men and women who knew the mountains
and were prepared to set their own lives at risk to help others
The original nucleus of the Team were found in Killorglin, and
the early members included Paddy O'Callaghan, Stan Brick, Gearóid
O'Sullivan and Richard Morrison, along with Killarney representatives
such as Terence Casey and John McGuire. Meetings were held around
the fireplace in Paddy's house, and as Gearóid O'Sullivan
recalled "It didn't matter whether we had high heels or mountaineering
boots at the time - those questions weren't even asked then".
The Team had an early 'baptism of fire' in the form of the July
1967 all-night rescue of Bill Collins, after whom Collins' Gully
is named (see above for newspaper story and photographs). This
was the Team's first major rescue and to this day remains one
of the most epic ever undertaken in Kerry. In the words of Paddy
O'Callaghan, "The rain was dreadful that night and we weren't
even sure about where we were going. The terrain was desperate
and we had no helmets and only minimum equipment. We could have
been killed or injured ourselves but the mission was a success
and we went on from there".
And go on from there they certainly did. Although shortage of
funding, and therefore equipment, has always been a problem for
the Team, the efforts that Team Members have put in over the years
have gradually built up the Team's resources, and in 1979 the
Team acquired its first ambulance. Another major milestone came
in 1983 when the Country's first dedicated Mountain Rescue station
was opened in Killorglin, after Team Members raised three quarters
of the £15,000 cost of the base. In 1990 Klaus Noelke, honorary
German Consul, presented the Team with an ex-army Mercedes Unimog
field ambulance and 'troop carrier', which was the Team's main
operational vehicle until it was recently replaced by a newer
version of the same vehicle.
Also in 1990, the first two specially trained search and rescue
dogs in the country took their place in the Team, along with their
handlers Mike McCarthy and Don Murphy. This has enabled the Team
to search large areas much more quickly and efficiently than would
be possible using manpower alone.
In recent times Mountain Rescue came under the remit of the Irish
Coast Guard, who now provide a sizeable proportion of the Team's
annual running costs, the remainder being comprised of an annual
grant from Kerry County Council and the considerable fundraising
efforts and generous donations of private individuals and community
The Team's current base at Killarney Garda Station was opened
in 2004 after a sustained period of fundraising and a capaital
grant from the Irish Coast Guard, along with the very kind gesture
of a nominal lease of the site from the Department of Justice.
The opening of the base marked another major milestone in the
development of the Team.
Thankfully, the Team has continued to go from strength to strength,
and although the equipment used by the Team now appears luxurious
compared to the spartan early days when even a single rope was
a major asset, ongoing fundraising is essential.
Over the years there have been many notable callouts. Apart from
the Collins Rescue mentioned above, there was the weekend in 1986
which resulted in the hospitalization of three Cork climbers after
an avalanche, followed immediately afterwards by the death of
a young female walker after a slip close by. Another callout which
has become a 'legend' was the huge but unsuccessful 1989 search
for a missing walker whose body was eventually found over six
months later. Sadly, the Team has attended over 40 fatalities
over the years, many in the immediate Carrauntoohil area. This
is an unfortunate but necessary part of the job which members
take on when they join the Team.
On a lighter note, many of the early Team members still enjoy
a chuckle over the 'missing' honeymoon couple, who were eventually
found tucked up safe and well in their tent after trying to get
away from the crowds. As one Team member said, "It was hard
to know whether it was us or them who had the reddest face when
we unzipped the tent!"
Today's Team would like to say a very big thank you to all past
members and supporters, whose efforts have helped to build up
the Team over the years. Our hats go off to the participants in
some of the heroic rescues of the past, which were achieved without
all the equipment and training we have come to depend on today.
May the next 40 years be as successful as the first!