People on board
HONAN, James, Pte.
James Honan was born in Market Alley in Limerick 1 July 1868. His parents, Michael Honan and Margaret Griffin had married about 1860 and their first child, John, was born in 1862. James was the fifth of seven children, though there may have been more. Market Alley, close to Arthur’s Quay, had twenty-four houses in the 1901 census, mostly tenements with multiple occupancy and unsanitary conditions.
James joined the Royal Munster Fusiliers in 1887 at the age of nineteen, giving his former trade as ‘Labourer’. He served in India and was discharged in 1896. In July 1897 James married Bridget Hayes in Limerick. Her father was a ‘Shoemaker’ with an address of Roxboro Road, while James was a ‘Labourer’ from Market Alley. When their first child, Margaret Mary, was born in 1898 they were living in Upper Carey’s Road, close to Roxboro, where they remained until 1910. During this period Anne was born in 1900 and died in 1901, followed by Bridget 1902, Catherine 1903, Josephine 1905, Daniel 1907 (named as Edward in 1911 census), Christopher 1910 and Esther 1914. The houses in Carey’s Road were slated and had three rooms but when they moved to nearby Richardson’s Lane in 1910 there were only two rooms for the eventual family of nine. In 1901 James gave his occupation as ‘Labourer in Ironworks’ and in 1911 as ‘Smith Labourer’, and also said that he could neither read nor write.
The family appears to have moved to England sometime after the birth of Esther in March 1914 and James re-joined the army, becoming a member of the Royal Defence Corps, 300 Protection Company. The RDC was set up in 1916 “to carry out duties connected with the local defence of the United Kingdom”, with Protection Company 300 in the Western Command. The Corps was made up from soldiers too old, or unfit, for front line duties. It would appear from newspaper reports of a RDC Sergeant who was also on the ship, that James’s company was in camp in Ireland, so he may have been returning home on leave. He was one of twenty-nine Royal Defence Corps men on board RMS Leinster when it was torpedoed on 10 October 1918, only two of whom survived. James, then aged fifty, did not, but his body was recovered and he was buried in Mount St Lawrence cemetery in Limerick. His widow Bridget gave an address in Wembley, but it is not known what happened to her and the children afterwards.