People on board
ALEXANDER, Robert Jocelyn
Robert Jocelyn Alexander was a 66 year old passenger aboard the Leinster. He was born into a celebrated ecclesiastical family. His father was the Right Reverend Sir William Alexander, later the Bishop of Derry and Primate of All-Ireland, and his mother was Cecil Frances (Fanny) Humphreys, who wrote such famous hymns as All things Bright & Beautiful. The 1911 census shows Robert’s birthplace to be Dublin, however, his baptism took place in Termonamongan, Co. Tyrone a week after his birth. He was known as Joc to his family.
Robert Alexander attended Winchester College, the famous public school, and subsequently Brasenose College, Oxford. Though he graduated with only a Third in History, Robert won a number of prestigious prizes during his time at Oxford, including English Verse and the Newdigate Prize in 1874, English Essay in 1877 (on Influence of the Schoolmen upon Modern Literature) and the Sacred Poem in 1878. While still studying, he married his cousin Alice Rachel Humphreys in St Saviour’s Church, Pimlico in London in 1876. Alice was a relation of his mother’s.
Unusually for the time, the couple had only two children, a son, William Harold, who died in infancy and a daughter, Elizabeth, born in 1884.
Following university, Joc Alexander joined the civil service and became attached to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Schools, where he was to spend his career, mostly in London, but the family was to be found in the village of Gotrey, near Pontypool in Wales on the 1891 census.
By 1911 census, Robert was back living with his wife, Alice and daughter, Elizabeth at 7 Burton Court in Chelsea, London, where he was still employed as a school inspector.
Probate records show that Robert Alexander was a shareholder in the Great Western Railway. His will was proved in Dublin (being the closest registry to where he died) but the entry in the UK records showed he lived at Crossways, Farnham Common in Buckinghamshire and he had property in England too. His estate was £3784 5s 1d, granted to his son-in-law Cyril Edmonds Rhodes, then a captain in the army and Cadet Frank Sedgwick. It is interesting that his wife is not the principle beneficiary. Alice Alexander lived with her daughter and her husband after she was widowed until her death in 1942 in Dorset, where Cyril Rhodes was involved in the shipping industry.
Robert Jocelyn Alexander’s body was recovered after the sinking of the Leinster and he was buried in Derry City Cemetery near his parents’ grave.
Text: Claire Bradley