People on board
Thomas Foley was born in Dublin in January 1872, the eldest surviving child of thirteen, born to Patrick Foley and Margaret Bryan. Born in County Tipperary in the 1840s Patrick married in Dublin in 1866, and when Thomas was born the family were living in Donnybrook Street. Patrick’s occupation was ‘Omnibus Conductor’ with later entries as ‘Tram Conductor’. At the birth of a son in 1880 his occupation was ‘Grocer’, still in Donnybrook Street but by 1883 and the birth of his youngest daughter, Lily, they had moved to Sussex Terrace, off Leeson Street, where he was still a Grocer. By 1901 the family had moved into the city centre, to 28 Lower Abbey Street, where Patrick Foley was a ‘Wine and Spirit Merchant’.
By the late 1890s Lily had established herself as a popular singer and dancer, winning the Gold Medal at the 1902 Feis Ceoil in the mezzo-soprano class. Both she and the future Count John McCormack were pupils of Vincent O’Brien who had founded the Palestrina Choir, and both sang at the 1904 St Louis World Fair. They were married in July 1906 in the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin, the eldest sister Margaret a witness.
In March of that year Patrick Foley had died, leaving the business in the hands of his daughter Margaret who took on the licence.
The premises at 28 Abbey Street were damaged in the Easter Rising in 1916 and Margaret made a claim for compensation of £702 9s 5d for “building and contents destroyed by fire and looting.” A payment of £568 was recommended by the Compensation Committee.
In the meantime, Thomas was working in the Town Clerk’s Office in Dublin Corporation, and when he married in June 1900 he was not living with the family in Abbey Street, but was in Lamb Alley, Merchant’s Quay. His bride, Charlotte Barrett, gave her address as Fownes Buildings, Temple Bar. They initially lived in Rathmines Park and employed one servant, later moving to Ashfield Park in Terenure. By the time of the 1911 census they had six children, another, having been born prematurely, had died within days. They went on to have four more children, the youngest, Kevin, was born in July 1917. In 1918 their address was 12 Leinster Road, Rathmines.
Thomas and Charlotte Foley were on board RMS Leinster on 10 October 1918 on their way to visit her brother Private Christopher Barrett in hospital in Birmingham. He had been seriously injured in France and died of his wounds just three days later.
Neither Thomas nor Charlotte survived the sinking and Thomas’s body was never recovered. Charlotte’s was, and she is buried in Glasnevin cemetery.
Margaret Foley, mother and daughter, took on the responsibility of the orphaned children. John and Lily McCormack, then in America with two children of their own, formally adopted the baby Kevin and made provision for the rearing and education of the nine older children. In November 1918 when Margaret was granted an order to presume the death of Thomas she was living in Harold’s Cross, and when her mother died in 1923 they were living at Strand Road, Merrion. She herself died in 1950 at the home of her then widowed sister, Mary Jane Bissette, Clareville House, Harold’s Cross.