People on board
John Dewar was born in Selkirkshire, Scotland in 1882 to Alexander Dewar and Jane Munro. The family is recorded in the 1891 Scottish census in Galashiels, living in the ‘Gardener’s House’ where Alexander’s occupation was Gardener. A younger son, Hugh, made up the family. By 1901 the family had moved to Ireland and Alexander, Jane and Hugh were living on the estate of Cruicetown House, Nobber, Co Meath owned by Major Thomas Bligh, where Alexander was ‘Steward’.
In 1918 John Dewar had been nineteen years working in the Post Office, which means that he started there in 1899 at the age of seventeen. Two years later, in the 1901 census, he was a Boarder in Oxmantown Road, in Smithfield with a Scottish family, giving the occupation of ‘P.O. Telegraphist and Sorter’. In early 1905 he married Agnes Ann Scarse in St George’s Church, Hanover Square, London and their first child, Mary, was born later that year in England. It is not clear if John was in England or Ireland at the time. A second daughter, Jean Margaret, was born in Dublin in November 1908 and John and Agnes were living at 9 Carnew Street, Smithfield. In the 1911 census their family had been joined by his brother Hugh who was working as a ‘Seedman’s Assistant’.
By October 1918 John Dewar would have been familiar with the routines involved in getting the mailbags to the mailboat in Kingstown and the working conditions on the ship. There was a special compartment below decks for the sorters’ work, set up as a Post Office, but there was only one stairway in and out. When the torpedo hit RMS Leinster it demolished the compartment, giving the twenty-two Post office workers little chance of survival. Four men did escape to the deck but only one lived. John Dewar did not survive, nor was his body recovered.
His parents had moved back to Scotland, his father dying there in 1928. On Alexander’s gravestone in Culross Cemetery in Fife, his birthplace, the names of all four members of the family are recorded including John, “killed in enemy action”. John Dewar’s name is also recorded on the memorials in the General Post Office in Dublin and in the Post Office in Dun Laoghaire.