SUB-LIEUTENANT Conor O’Brien has completed a rare hat-trick for his family in becoming the third brother commissioned as a naval officer.
Older brothers Paul and Rory got their stripes in 2000 and 2001 respectively and both are serving as marine engineers.
With only one ship’s engineer per vessel, the brothers won’t be serving time together at sea but all three teamed up for Conor’s commissioning ceremony at Haulbowline on Friday.
From Ferndale, Ennis Road, all three went to school at St Nessan’s. Father Sean works with An Post and mother Caroline said there was no naval history in the family.
“I don’t know where they got it from really but after Paul got his commission, they were talking about it among themselves and it’s obviously a job they enjoy. Of course we’re very proud of them,” said Caroline.
All three brothers have separately completed engineering degrees.
Lt Paul O’Brien works with the Navy’s planning office, preparing the dockyards for ships coming in for refits. Earlier this year, he read out the 1916 Proclamation at the 95th anniversary commemoration of the Rising at the GPO. Paul is currently heading for the Rugby Word Cup in New Zealand while man-of-the-moment Conor is on a well-deserved holiday in Spain. But middle brother Lt Rory O’Brien spoke to the Limerick Chronicle from the deck of the LE Eithne.
“It’s quite rough now today, even though we’re only in Cork Harbour, because we are picking up the tail of (Hurricane) Katia,” he said.
“Basically what marine engineering officers do is look after propulsion, engines, generators and all machinery on board to make sure everything is running alright. And you’re in charge of health and safety on board,” Rory said.
On receiving their commission, engineering officers serve two years with a particular ship. Like his older brother, Rory’s current duties - inspecting and evaluating ships - are largely land-based.
Conor could expect to serve regular monthly stints at sea over the next two years but Rory, who is due to get married next month, said modern communications mean life on the waves isn’t as disruptive to family life as it once was.
“You all get used to it. You depend on the other half at home and their understanding of what it is you do. When you are on a ship, you can be four weeks out and two weeks back in - but mobile phones and the internet certainly make it a lot easier to keep in touch. You have phone coverage on the south coast up to 15 miles out but off the northwest you wouldn’t have much luck because you can hardly get a signal on land.”
Navy ships can patrol as many as 200 miles offshore but Rory said satellite communications could always be relied upon in an emergency.