The Sinking of the R.M.S. Leinster
 

85th Commemoration

 

Remembered at last

In late 2002 a small group of people in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, Ireland and Holyhead, Anglesey, Wales decided that those who died on the Leinster had been forgotten for too long. Calling themselves The Friends of the Leinster, they planned to mark the 85th anniversary of the sinking in 2003 with remembrance services on both sides of the Irish Sea. It was decided that commemorations would be held at Dun Laoghaire on 10 October and at Holyhead on 12 October.

YouTube Video: 90th anniversary commemoration ceremony - October 10th, 2008


Dun Laoghaire Harbour, Co. Dublin Friday 10 October 2003

10 October 2003 Commemorations on board the L.E. Aoife at the site of the R.M.S. Leinster wreck.
10 October 2003 Commemorations on board the L.E. Aoife at the site of the R.M.S. Leinster wreck.

Shortly before 9 a.m. the Irish Naval Ship L.E. Aoife set sail from the same place the R.M.S. Leinster had left 85 years ago to the day. Unlike 10 October 1918, the weather was perfect, with the sun shining. On board the Aoife were a few Leinster relatives, William Byrne, a relative who was also Secretary of the Friends of the Leinster and Philip Lecane, Chairperson of the Friends of the Leinster.

As the Aoife approached the site of the Leinster wreck four RAF Hawk jets from Valley, Anglesey, Wales flew overhead in salute to those who died in the greatest ever loss of life in the Irish Sea. The Leinster sinking had resulted in the first-ever joint participation in a commemorative service by the RAF and the Irish Navy. When the Aoife reached the site of the stricken Leinster the Dun Laoghaire RNLI lifeboat Anna Livia was already there.

As the ferry coming from Holyhead slowed down to watch the proceedings a small group gathered on the bow of the Aoife. The company consisted of Lieutenant-Commander Peter Twomey, captain of the Aoife, some of his crew, Father Sean Cassidy, Leinster relatives, William Byrne and Philip Lecane.

Philip made a short speech about why the commemoration was taking place. Father Cassidy led

Philip Lecane on the bow of L.E. Aoife.
Philip Lecane on the bow of L.E. Aoife at
site of the Leinster wreck, before casting wreath into sea, 10 October 2003.

the group in prayer. Then, with the ship’s officers saluting and the sailors standing at attention, William Byrne and Philip Lecane cast a wreath into the sea. It was followed by a wreath from the lifeboat Anna Livia.

Her mission completed, the Aoife headed back to Dun Laoghaire. On the way back the ship’s crew provided refreshments for those who had taken part in the commemoration service. Jim Honan, who had traveled all the way from Canada for the commemorations, was feeling particularly pleased with how things had gone. The little group felt that the best part of the day was over. Little did they realize what the rest of the day would bring.

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“My God, we’ve filled the church!”

After the Aoife docked at Dun Laoghaire a number of the crew formed up on the quayside and matched off bound for St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church. The relatives made their way to the church at a more leisurely pace.

The group from the Aoife were amazed when they reached the church. Some members of the Friends of Leinster commemoration planning committee had said that it would be impossible to fill. Those in the church included an estimated 200 people from Holyhead including children and teachers from The Park School, twenty-five retired Royal Welch Fusiliers (the regiment lost several men on the Leinster), the mayor and town councilors, the M.P. for North Wales, Leinster relatives and Holyhead members of the Friends of the Leinster. Also present were the Irish

St Michael's Church, Dun Laoghaire on the morning of 10 October 2003.
St Michael's Church, Dun Laoghaire on the morning of 10 October 2003. It shows children from The Park School, Holyead (an ex-teacher and ex-pupils of the school were lost in the sinking). In the background are the Irish Army's No 1 Army band and some of the people who attended the service.

Army’s No 1 Band, reserve members of the Irish Army and Navy forming a colour party at the altar, local members of parliament and councilors, local school children and teachers, nurses and nuns from St. Michael’s Hospital (where some of the Leinster survivors were treated), children and teachers from a German school in Dublin, representatives of the embassies of Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Leinster relatives, members of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association, members of the local history and genealogical societies, Friends of the Leinster and many local people. Estimates of the attendance ranged from 2,000 to 2,500.

On the altar were the clergy of different religions, present for the inter-church prayer service.

Fr. Patrick Mangan welcomed those present and spoke about why the commemoration was taking place. There followed prayers and singing by children from Holyhead and Dun Laoghaire. Then Philip Lecane went up on the altar to tell the congregation that 501 people who died on the Leinster were being remembered. He said that, because it is not possible to remember nameless people, school children would read out the names of 25 of those who died on the Leinster. He said that UB-123, the submarine that sunk the Leinster was herself lost on the way back to Germany. Submarine captain Robert Ramm was 27 years old. He left a wife and two children. His two officers were aged 24 and 21. The rest of the crew were aged 19 and 20. Philip said that children from the German school would read out the names of five of the submarine’s crew.

The names being read by the children, was for many people the most emotional part of the ceremony. William Byrne then sang Anthem for the Leinster, a very moving ballad about the sinking.

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At the anchor

At the end of the church ceremony those in attendance paraded to the recovered Leinster anchor on the town’s seafront. Recovered by a team of divers, it was dedicated at a public ceremony in January 1996. The anchor faces the Carlisle pier, from where the Leinster set out on her final journey on 10 October 1918.

White the crowd gathered in front of the anchor, Philip Lecane thanked the many people who

Leinster anchor, Dun Laoghaire, morning 10 October, 2003.
Leinster anchor, Dun Laoghaire, morning 10 October, 2003. Shows children and teacher from The Park School Holyead with
(left) Albert Owen Member of Parliament for North Wales (an ex-merchant seaman whom addressed the crowd in Welsh and English) and (right) Philip Lecane, Leinster researcher.

had contributed to making the day possible. He then called on our two speakers. First to speak was local Councilor Denis O’Callaghan, an ex-postal worker. His participation highlighted the 21 postal workers who died on the ship. The second speaker was Albert Owen M.P. for North Wales, an ex-merchant seaman. His presence highlighted the crew, men and women, who died in the sinking.

Following the two speakers Jeff Evans from Holyhead recited a poem he had specially written for the ceremony. Then wreaths were laid at the anchor and the Last Post was sounded.

Those assembled then retired to the county hall for refreshments provided by The Friends of the Leinster.

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On the radio

At the conclusion of the reception some of the Friends of the Leinster commemoration planning committee and a few of the Leinster relatives went to the ferry terminal, where they were interviewed for the RTE Radio maritime programme Seascapes.

Presenting a programme on the sinking of the Leinster.
Presenting a programme on the sinking of the Leinster. In the studio of Dublin South FM radio station (left to right) Des McCloskey (grandson of Leinster casualty James Ratcliffe, Royal Army Medical Corps), Philip Lecane (Leinster author) with 1918 aerial photo of the ship and William Byrne (great-grandson of Leinster Chief Stoker John Donohoe.

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Remembering the postal sorters

Philip Lecane pointing out to Marie Comiskey the name of her relative, Postal Sorter Matthew Brophy.
Philip Lecane pointing out to Marie Comiskey the name of her relative, Postal Sorter Matthew Brophy. 10 October 2003

At 6.45 p.m. a plaque was unveiled in Dun Laoghaire’s post office in memory of the postal sorters who had died. The unveiling was attended by relatives of the postal sorters, Friends of the Leinster and Philip Lecane as the person who had researched the postal sorters and had proposed the erection of the plaque.

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Holyhead Remembers

On Sunday 12 October 2003 a large group of people from Dun Laoghaire and Dublin traveled by ferry to Holyhead. Upon arrival they were collected by busses and brought to St. Cybi’s (pronounced Cubbies) Church. The church was crowded with those attending. The service was conducted by the Rev. John Nice. The service included singing by children from The Park School and Dun Laoghaire schools. Jeff Evans recited his specially written poem and William Byrne sang his moving ballad about the Leinster sinking.

Afterwards the congregation paraded to the town’s cenotaph, where wreaths were laid and the Last Post was sounded.

Then those present attended a reception organized by the Holyhead Friends of the Leinster.

Afterwards most of those who had traveled from Ireland returned by ferry. The Friends of the Leinster Dun Laoghaire section, stayed over night. The following day our the Holyhead members of the Friends of the Leinster took their Dun Laoghaire colleagues on a bus tour of some of the more interesting Anglesey sights.

By Monday night all of the Friends of the Leinster we reflecting and feeling justly proud of their organization of the first ever Leinster commemoration on both sides of the Irish Sea.

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The Park School Remembers

The Park School, Holyhead. Monday 10 November 2003.

One month from the day of the Dun Laoghaire Leinster commemoration another ceremony took place in Holyhead. Assembled were children and teachers from the school, local dignitaries and Friends of the Leinster from both sides of the Irish Sea.

The Assistant Principal of the school told those present that we were there to witness the unveiling of a plaque in memory of two ex-teachers and two ex-pupils from the school who were lost on the Leinster. Then Philip Lecane, as the person who researched the people and proposed the erection of the plaque, spoke about those named on the plaque. The school choir sang, followed by William Byrne with The Anthem for the Leinster.

The ceremony was followed by a reception in Holyhead Town Hall.

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The Search For The Second Leinster Anchor

In early 2004, the Holyhead Friends of the Leinster were given permission by Des Brannigan, owner of the Leinster wreck, to recover the ship’s second anchor and place it in Holyhead as a second memorial to the greatest ever loss of life in the Irish Sea. Unfortunately, despite intensive efforts, divers were unable to locate the anchor. It appears likely that it is buried beneath the wreck.

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Commemorative postage stamp

On 30 May 2008 An Post (The Irish Post Office) issued a stamp to commemorate the sinking.  For information, see page 13 on the following link:
http://www.irishstamps.ie/IrishStamps/downloads/CollectorsNewsIssue23.pdf

2008 An Post commemorative stamp
2008 An Post stamp

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