People on board
Ralph Murray was born on the 10th of June 1901 in Waterville. He was named Bernard Raphael by his parents, Albert Murray and Marie Elizabeth O’Riordan, and he was the fifth of their eight children, two of whom died in infancy. Albert was born in England and was working in the Cable station in Waterville, giving his occupation in the censuses as Telegraphist or Cable Operator. In 1918 the family was living in Broughton House in Waterville.
By 1900 telegraphic communication was well established, with both European and transatlantic underwater cables laid. With commercial success came competition, not least in Kerry. The Waterville station was owned by an American company, the Commercial Cable Co., while from 1911 the Valentia and Ballinskelligs stations were owned by the Western Union Telegraph Co. The outbreak of war in 1914 brought two major changes to these stations. One was the volume of traffic increased enormously, meaning staff numbers increased and long hours of work were required. Secondly, censorship was imposed and censors or ‘Post Office Technical Staff’ were present in the stations, eleven in Valentia and six in Waterville. Each station was surrounded by barbed wire and kept under military guard.
The Irish School of Telegraphy was set up in Cork by Thomas O’Sullivan who had worked in the Waterville station. The curriculum provided “training for cable as well as wireless telegraphy, and students can qualify for shore, sea or air appointments”, according to the School’s advertising. In October 1918 Ralph Murray had just finished his initial training in Cork and was on his way to London to take up an appointment with the Commercial Cable Co. He was accompanied by Anthony Jones and Anthony Baker who had also just finished their training in Cork. The fathers of all three worked as Telegraphists in Waterville station. All three young men stayed the night of the 9th in the Grosvenor Hotel in Dublin and took the early boat train to Kingstown on the 10th.
Another group of three Telegraphists was also on board the Leinster. William Heller, Thomas Richards and Wilfred Paul were all from Penzance and were working in the Valentia station. They were destined for a holiday at home in Cornwall. The two groups may have known each other already, and in an affidavit to a probate hearing on Anthony Baker in December 1918, Thomas Richards said that they met up on board the ship. Of the six, only Richards survived the sinking, though the bodies of Anthony Jones and William Heller were recovered. The body of Ralph Murray was not recovered.
Subsequently Albert Murray wrote a poem “In deep and sorrowing memory of my three pupils, including my son”, suggesting that he had had input into their training in Waterville.