The Sinking of the R.M.S. Leinster

People on board

James Canavan


James Canavan was born in Listowel, Co Kerry on the 21st of January 1868 to Thomas Canavan and Mary Sullivan. He was the third of eight children in a family whose name was spelled in a variety of ways – Canaven, Canafin, Canifan, Cavain. When James married Catherine Shea in Tralee in 1892 he was a Soldier stationed in Ballymullen Barracks, home of the Royal Munster Fusiliers.

The original military records for James Canavan during this period are not available, but indexed records say that he fought in India and in the South African Boer War. It is not clear where Catherine was during this period, and neither of them appears in the 1901 census. Their first registered children, male twins, were born in 1903, dying the following year. In all, James and Catherine had six children but only two survived beyond infancy, Catherine born in 1906 and Michael born in 1912.

In 1911 they were living in one room in Mary Street, Tralee and James gave his occupation as General Labourer. War was declared on the 28th of July 1914 and James Canavan re-enlisted in the Royal Munster Fusiliers on the 18th of August at the age of forty-five, Service Number 4612. Initially he appears to have been in the Garrison Battalion in Tralee but he was fighting in Salonika in Greece in 1916 and 1917. In June 1918 he was transferred to the Labour Corps.

The records don’t say where he was stationed but he was probably travelling to Britain following leave in Tralee when he travelled on RMS Leinster on the 10th of October 1918. He did not survive the sinking nor was his body recovered. Catherine and his two children, then living in John Street in Tralee, were told that he was ‘Missing Presumed Drowned’. In May 1919 Catherine was awarded a pension of 26s 8d a week. James’s name is recorded on the Hollybrook Memorial in Southampton. Catherine lived until 1950 when she died in Tralee aged seventy-nine.



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