Wednesday next the 10th October is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Leinster and the tragic death of 567 people. Including 11 people with Clare, connections were amongst those that lost their lives in the greatest maritime tragedy in the Irish Sea. The tragic sinking of the Royal Mail Steamer Leinster by German torpedo just weeks before the end of the Great War was quickly forgotten. Contemporary newspapers had moved on to the next story within a week, and political and social changes in Ireland in the following years did not encourage discussion of Ireland's role in the war.
Next Sunday the 7th. October Clare Roots Society in conjunction with the Clare Peace Park Committee and Ennis Parish have organised a schedule of remembrance and memorial events commencing with a Mass of Remembrance celebrated by Bishop Fintan Monaghan at 11.30 a.m. at Ennis Cathedral. This is followed by a book launch at Ennis Parish Centre at 12.30. This booklet sets out the background and family details associated with John Coyne (Tuamgraney), Delia & Norah Davoren (Ennis), Nellie Hogan (Newmarket-on-Fergus & Brighton), James & Claire Hynes (Tulla & Manchester), Margaret & Mary O' Grady (Quin), Owen Ward R.I.C. (Ennis & Monaghan), Margaret Cooke (Ennis & Tipperary), Edwin George Ferber (Killaloe) all who lost their lives in the tragedy. Finally, at 1.30 p.m. a wreath-laying ceremony will take place at the Clare Peace Park at Glor.
On the morning of the 10th October, the Leinster steamed out of Kingstown port, somewhere about 9 a.m. with approximately 800 passengers and crew. Many of the 500 militaries aboard would have been en route back to the front; some of the civilians were going to see family members, wounded in France, in British hospitals; and many nurses were going back to work in English hospitals. It was a very beautiful morning, though the sea appeared a trifle choppy.The mail boats, along with all other shipping in the Irish Sea, were targets of the German submarines but there was no alternative way of reaching Britain, except by sea. The first torpedo was spotted at 9.45 and, though it missed, the captain immediately commenced an evasive action to turn the ship around.A contemporary newspaper reported the scene thus:Within one hour and a half from the time she left Kingstown Pier, rumour had it that something had gone wrong with her. The Marine Road and pier soon began to fill with crowds on the tip-toe of expectation. Pedestrians lined the foot and carriageway. All eyes were sternly fixed on the horizon at sea.Early in the afternoon, the curiosity of the many who lined paths and pier were quickly aroused, and more speedily still transformed into consternation by the sudden arrival of hundreds of military and civilian motor ambulances from Dublin. As the dead bodies of men, women and children were transferred from the rescue boats to the ambulances, the spectacle was appalling in the extreme. Some were horribly mangled, and death must have supervened instantaneously in multitudes of cases. It certainly required a stout heart to maintain composure while this weird dismemberment went on.Horrid as was the scene at the landing stage, the Morgue in the hospital presented a still more awe-inspiring sight. The dead were placed in rows, on the floor, as a rule, but in many instances, they lay on the slab or on a table raised from the ground.The return to Ennis of the dead bodies of Mss Norah and Dilly Davoren to the people who knew them in their youth, watched them grow up in the pride of life, was a sad event. In the nursing profession, they held a leading and respected place and this was more than borne out by the messages of sympathy received. Another extremely sad case was that of Mss Margaret & Mary O' Grady both of the nursing profession. Margaret's body was brought to Newmarket Church, and later buried in Quin Abbey; Mary's body was never recovered.On this, the 100 years anniversary Clare Roots Society and author Lucille Ellis, together with the support of numerous people across Clare and beyond, have produced a timely reminder of this tragedy and its context.The Author, Lucille Ellis was born and is living in Dublin but has two grandparents from Clare. Over twenty years of family history research have established that related families are still living in West Clare and East Clare on the same lands, since the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries respectively, with one branch having Ennis connections.While teaching the senior classes in primary school, she was fortunate that the curriculum encouraged involvement in local history, in her case, the Dun Laoghaire/Dalkey area. When she retired she decided to combine the two interests of family and local history. Then with the backing and encouragement of the Clare Roots Society, she published 'Bindon Street and Bank Place', 'Ennis at Work in the 19th Century' & 'The Women of Clare'.In the early 1970s, when she did her degree in History, researching primary sources wasn't the norm; now this is encouraged, even at primary school level. The past can really come alive to us now through old newspapers, photographs and maps, many of which can be accessed online or in places like the Clare Library Local Studies Centre which is a treasure trove of the past.John BradleyP.R.O.Clare Roots Society
Thank you to Lucille Ellis, John Bradley and all who contributed to bring this memorial story to our attention.
May they who died Rest in Peace.
Cost for the booklet is €5 plus shipping cost. Orders can be placed with Ennis Book Shop. They have an on-line website firstname.lastname@example.org for queries.