The Sinking of the R.M.S. Leinster

People on board

Mary Coffey


Mary Coffey was born in 1878 to Edward Coffey and Mary Doolan, who had both been born in Co Kildare. Edward was a Labourer and the address given was Jamestown, near Kilternan, Co Dublin. Later children were born in Carrickmines, altogether ten, with eight alive in 1911. In the 1901 census Edward and Mary were living in Newpark Lodge, Deansgrange, a small cottage, with their daughter Johanna and her two children, as well as two of the children of their daughter Bridget.

Mary Coffey, listed as ‘Second Stewardess’, was in Holyhead in the UK 1901 census, on board RMS Ulster. In August of the same year her older brother James, born 1874, died in India; he had been serving with the Royal Irish Regiment. Her father Edward died in 1906 of pneumonia and heart failure and his widow’s address was Newpark Lodge. By the 1911 census they had moved to Tivoli Terrace, while Mary was on board the RMS Connaught in Kingstown with Captain Birch. At the same time her younger brother Edward was living in Holyhead, working as a Joiner for the LNWR Co. and her brother in law was a steward on the Mail Boats. Another brother Thomas was killed in action in France in 1917.

Mary was Senior Stewardess on the RMS Leinster when it was torpedoed, barely surviving the ordeal. She reported that three times she was washed off the life raft, before being pulled to safety.

Mary didn’t return to sea but instead became a governess. Later she was described as a retired nurse, but there is no evidence to support this. The family had moved to 1 Charlemont Avenue in Kingstown, this remaining her home until her death. Her sister Gretta was involved with Cumann na mBan and was imprisoned for some time and two of her nephews, sons of Bridget and Johanna, were shot dead in 1922 by a Free State Army unit in Deansgrange, ironically in the house, Newpark Lodge, where the family had lived earlier. In 1940 Mary is reported to have sheltered the German spy Hermann Goetz in the house in Charlemont Avenue, and although it is said that she was subsequently interned on that account, this has not been confirmed. Mary died in 1953 and is buried in Deansgrange cemetery.



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