The Sinking of the R.M.S. Leinster

People on board

Thomas Bolster

BOLSTER, Thomas Joseph

Thomas Joseph Bolster, known as Tom, was born on the 6th of August 1884 in the townland of Knockannacreeva, near Bruree in Co Limerick. His parents, Thomas Bolster, a Labourer, and Margaret O’Neill were married in 1882 and Thomas was their only child. In the 1901 census both father and son gave their occupation as ‘Agricultural Labourer’. In 1918 Thomas Joseph had fifteen years of experience in the Post Office, so he would have started work there in 1903.

Post Office PlaqueIn the 1911 census he was a Boarder in a house in North Leinster Street in Phibsborough, Dublin when his occupation was ‘Sorting Clerk and Telegraphist’. Six other young men with the same occupation were boarding in the same house.

Thomas Bolster was a member of the Thomas Davis Hurling Club, the postal workers club.
By 1918 Tom Bolster would have been familiar with the routine of taking the mailbags from the G.P.O. in O’Connell Street to the train in Westland Row, and then to the mailboat in Kingstown. On the 10th of October he would have been at work with his colleagues in the special compartment on the ship sorting the mail which would be taken to London when the ship reached Holyhead. He would have been aware of the presence of submarines in the Irish Sea as the mailboats had taken evasive action on many previous occasions.               

When the torpedo crashed into the Post Office compartment which immediately began filling with water he would have had little time to escape. Only four of the twenty-two workers appear to have been able to get out of the compartment and only one survived the sinking. This survivor, J.J. Higgins, reported later that he spoke briefly with Tom Bolster who had a broken leg and other internal injuries, before Bolster went over the side of the ship attempting to reach a lifeboat. “He fell into the sea and I saw him drifting away on his back in the water, but I never saw him again”, said Higgins.

Tom Bolster’s body was not recovered, but his name is recorded on the memorials in the G.P.O. and in the Post Office in Dun Laoghaire.


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