people who went down with the Leinster
Ireland's worst maritime disaster, the sinking of the
RMS Leinster during World War I, claimed 500 lives, among
them many from Clare.
ON THE morning of October 10th, 1918 at 9.45am, the mail-boat
RMS Leinster, belonging to the City of Dublin Steam Packet,
Company, left Kingstown Pier (Dún Laoghaire) bound
for Holyhead. The 2,646 tons vessel carried 771 men, women
and children, including crew, civilian passengers and 492
individual soldiers and sailors going on leave or returning.
She had been attacked on the December 27, 1917, by a German
submarine whose torpedo missed its mark, and since then
had been defensively armed with a single 12-pounder gun.
About an hour after leaving Kingstown the Leinster was 11
miles east, south east of the Kish Light Vessel.
At that point, without warning, she was struck by a torpedo
from the submarine UB 123. A second torpedo struck her some
minutes later. The engine room was blown out, and she sank
thirteen minutes after the first impact.
The lifeboats were launched, and SOS messages were sent;
after about an hour, two old destroyers and other vessels
arrived from Kingstown and Holyhead and combined in the
work of saving life. But, in spite of the energy of the
rescuers and the heroism of individuals from the Leinster,
501 persons lost their lives.
Of these, 145 officers and men including members of the
Royal Navy and Mercantile Marine, whose bodies were recovered,
are buried in Grangegorman Military Cemetery, Dublin. A
further 142 officers and men of the Army, one nurse and
one civilian messenger are commemorated at Hollybrook Cemetery,
Southampton; 39 of the crew, including the Master, Captain
William Birch are commemorated on the Merchant Navy Tower
Hill Memorial, London.
Clare victims on board the Leinster that morning including
two set of sisters, all of whom were nurses.
Margaret and May O'Grady, the daughters of Francis
O'Grady of Newmarket-on-Fergus both returning to England
after spending a holiday at home. Margaret was returning
to the Isolation Hospital, in Mitcham, England and May to
her nursing duties in England.
Two other sisters, nurses Norah and Delia Davoren, Claureen
House, Ennis were meant to return to England on Tuesday,
October 8 but missed the train, the consequence of which
was to be disastrous. The following day they caught the
midday train from Ennis en route for Kingstown, where they
boarded the doomed ship. Their bodies were recovered and
later identified by their brother. Both are buried in Drumcliff
Yet another nurse who died was Nellie Hogan from Ralahine,
Newmarket-on-Fergus who was also returning to duty in England.
James Hynes and his daughter, Clare were also among the
casualties. James ran an outfitters/tailoring business in
Tulla and was on his way to Manchester.
Among the male casualties was Private John Coyne, a resident
of Tuamgraney. He was the husband of Bridget Coyne (nee
O'Farrell), Raheen Road, Tuamgraney. He had previously
been a member of the Royal Munster Fusiliers but had transferred
to the Labour Corps. His body was never recovered and he
is commemorated on the Hollybrook Memorial in Southampton.
Head Constable Owen Ward of the Royal Irish Constabulary
was also on the doomed ship. He was in charge of the R.I.C.
in Ennis and was on his way to England on official business.
No complete passenger list is available for the last tragic
voyage of the Leinster. It was only when the bodies began
to come ashore, that people realised the scale of the disaster.
The view expressed at the time was that the loss of a mail
steamer travelling between Ireland and England would be
a national disaster, considering the amount of civilian
passengers ferried on them. The sinking of the Leinster
was to be Ireland's worst ever-maritime disaster.
The wreck of the Leinster is located at a depth of 100ft.
12 miles from shore and is virtually intact with the bow
During the early 1990s the wrecks owner, Desmond Brannigan
and several sub aqua divers from the locality of Dún
Laoghaire arranged for the recovery of one of the Leinster's
anchors. With financial assistance from Stena Sealink, Irish
Lights and others, they raised one. It was brought to Dún
Laoghaire and placed on the seafront, a stark reminder of
mans inhumanity to man.
The above is an extract from The Clare Casulaties
of the Great War' by Patrick J. McNamara. 2003