The Sinking of the R.M.S. Leinster

People on board

Wiliam Alexander Burleigh

BURLEIGH, William Alexander

William Alexander Burleigh (possibly known as Alex) was born 8 May 1895 to William Burleigh and Mary Anne Chambers. He was the youngest of twelve children, one from an earlier marriage, living in Macken, Florencecourt, Co Fermanagh. William Burleigh gave his occupation as ‘Shopkeeper’ on the birth certificates of his children and, in almost every case, declined to give the name of the child. In the 1901 census his occupation was ‘Farmer and Sub-Postmaster’. Three of William’s brothers and a sister emigrated to Australia in the 1880s and many of William and Mary Anne’s children also left Ireland for the US, Canada or Australia. William died in 1901 and Mary Anne continued as ‘Shopkeeper and Farmer’ and in the 1911 census only the youngest two sons, Andrew and William Alexander, were at home.

In 1906 two of the girls, Rebecca and Mary Anne, emigrated to Australia, initially settling in Western Australia where Mary Anne died in 1908. Rebecca then apparently moved to the Melbourne area where her uncles and their families were settled. One of her cousins married Beatrice Carter in 1910 and a few years later Rebecca strengthened the ties between the families by becoming engaged to her brother, Edwin Johnson Carter. He enlisted in the Australian army in January 1916 and left for Europe, leaving Rebecca in Australia.

Meanwhile, back in County Fermanagh, it appears that Andrew Burleigh also enlisted, possibly in the Inniskilling Fusiliers, though no military records relating to either him or William Alexander have been found to date. Andrew was wounded in France in 1918 and repatriated to England, though again there are no records confirming this. In August 1918 Edwin Carter was also wounded in battle and brought to the Canadian hospital in Orpington, in Kent. In late September he was granted leave prior to returning to his unit and appears to have travelled to Ireland to meet his future Burleigh in-laws. On 10 October he was returning to England on RMS Leinster accompanied by William Alexander who was travelling to see Andrew in hospital. Neither man survived the sinking, though both bodies were recovered. William Alexander Burleigh’s remains were brought back to Fermanagh and laid to rest in Druminiskill cemetery.

Rebecca married in 1920 to an Englishman who had also fought in the Australian army and settled in Queensland. Andrew recovered and returned to Florencecourt, and though never in good health he lived until 1951.



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