The Sinking of the R.M.S. Leinster
 

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Emily Beatrice Blackburne

BLACKBURNE, Emily Beatrice née Jones

Emily Beatrice (Bee) Jones was born in 1876 in Bournemouth, Hampshire, the second of the three children of Henry David Jones and Emily Leetham. Born in Wales, Henry Jones was a clergyman who moved from Bournemouth in 1879 to become Rector in St Leonard on Sea, near Hastings, where Bee grew up. Her mother Emily died in May 1881 at the age of twenty-nine and a stained-glass window was erected in the parish church in her memory. Henry remarried in November 1882 to Elizabeth Kirkpatrick in London and five more children were then born. Bee was a childhood friend of Charles Blackburne, who she was later to marry, both growing up in St Leonard on Sea having lost a parent while very young.

In the 1901 census, Bee, then aged twenty-four, was listed as being a ‘Law Student at the Temple’. However, she did not complete her studies as in December Charles Blackburne returned from South Africa, where he had been fighting in the Boer War, and the two became engaged. He went back to South Africa where he took up a permanent Civil Service position, earning £750 a year and so able to support a family. He could not get leave to return to England for a wedding so Bee and her father travelled out to South Africa. The marriage took place in Durban in February 1903, with Rev Henry Jones both father of the bride and officiating at the ceremony. The wedding ring was made from a nugget of Klondike gold that Charles had dug up in Canada years earlier and kept for this purpose.

Charles’s job as Manager of the Transvaal Horse Breeding Department involved much work and travelling. Initially their house was small and basic, though they later moved to larger premises. Bee looked after the poultry and the garden as well as entertaining frequent visitors. In November 1901 a daughter was born who only lived for eleven days. Life in the Transvaal was not always easy and after a riding accident and an attack of enteric fever, Bee was advised to return to England which she did in July 1905.

Charles gave up his job in South Africa in early 1906 to take up a position as Manager of White’s Carriage Company in Liverpool and a daughter, Audrey, was born there in June 1907. Shortly afterwards he purchased a house and estate of 250 acres, Tydynn, near Mold, in North Wales and a son Charles Bertram, known as Peter, was born there in September 1911. Their happy family life was shattered when war was declared in late July 1914 and Charles immediately re-joined the army. He took part in the battle of Mons in August and then in Ypres. He was wounded in the shoulder in May 1915 during the second battle of Ypres and repatriated to England.

Despite months of treatment Charles never regained the full use of his arm and so was confined to desk duties. In early 1916 he was sent to Ireland and stationed at the Curragh in Co Kildare. He was Staff Officer to General Lowe during the Easter Rebellion and was deeply involved in the affairs of that time. He was promoted within the Staff and lived in Kildare Street in the city centre, close to the Kildare Street Club.

It appears that Bee and the children remained in Mold throughout this period until, in January 1918, he decided that they should join him in Ireland. They lived in Bellville, in the Phoenix Park, later moving to Hatch Street in the city.

On the 10th October 1918 Charles was travelling to Cambridge for a senior staff course with his family, and the children’s governess, Rose de Pury. Of the group, only Bee survived the sinking of RMS Leinster. The last sighting of Charles was of him swimming with his daughter on his back. Audrey’s body was never recovered though those of Charles and Peter were. They were buried in the specially opened cemetery of the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham in Dublin, where the funeral service, led by the Church of Ireland Primate of Ireland, was held. The commander of the British Army in Ireland and his staff were present, as well as many officers and friends.

The Electoral Registers of 1929 and 1930 show Bee living in Burton Court, Royal Hospital Chelsea, though it is not known if she had been there since the 1918 tragedy. Her father, then Dean of Chichester, had died in 1925. In the 1933 Electoral Registers she was living in Kensington with her older sister, Mary Gertrude Woodward, and they were still together in the 1939 Register. Bee died in a nursing home in Bristol in September 1944 at the age of sixty-eight, with a home address in Wimbledon.

 

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