Clare 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 cemetery, Ennis.

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 pointing south.

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