The Sinking of the R.M.S. Leinster

People on board

Thomas Francis Denny

DENNEY, Thomas Francis

Thomas Francis Denney or Denny) was born on the 21st of December 1892 in Massachusetts, U.S.A. to James H Denney and Julia A Fitzgerald. James’s parents were from Ireland and Julia had emigrated from Kerry about 1880. They lived first in Athol, then moved a short distance south to Hubbardston where Thomas was born, and finally north again to the city of Gardner where they put down roots. Thomas was the third born of their eight children but the only son to survive. James Denney worked on the railroads and died in 1919 aged sixty-five, while Julia died in 1923 aged sixty-one.

The family lived at South Main Street in Gardner and in the 1910 census Thomas, aged seventeen, gave his occupation as Bookkeeper in an office. In the 1940 census, which asked different questions, he stated that 4th Year in High School was his highest grade completed. In his World War 1 Draft Registration Card of June 1917 he said he was employed as Secretary in W.L. Shaughnessy Co. ”in New York and travelling”. In answer to the question “Do you claim exemption to the draft?” he replied that he was of “Great value to the company and [my] parents could not get along without my help (only son)”.

He departed from New York on the 14th of November as a Sergeant in the Sanitation Corps of the Medical Department of the U.S. Army, specifically the Overseas Repair Section Gas Defense Service.

They were tasked with receiving and distributing gas masks from the U.S., and testing, disinfecting and repairing them. It is not clear where he was stationed in Europe but returned to the U.S. in January 1919 from the port of Brest in France.

Thomas Francis Denney was in Ireland in October 1919 visiting his mother’s relations in Kerry. He was presumably travelling back to his post on the 10th when he travelled on RMS Leinster. He survived the sinking and recounted his experiences to both the Cork Examiner, and at length, to the Cork Constitution published on the 12th. He described quite an amount of panic and a shortage of life jackets. He was thrown into the water by the second explosion and dislocated his shoulder. However he managed to grip on to a spar, and though he lost consciousness, he was eventually rescued and was treated in the Dublin Castle Hospital.

Back home in Gardner in the 1920 census he gave his occupation as ‘Commercial Salesman’ while his older sister Mary was a Grade School Teacher, and the two younger, Grace and Theresa, were a Book Keeper and Stenographer and the youngest, Isabel, was at home. Thomas Denney married Veronica Edla Savage in 1918 in Connecticut and they had three children, Robert, Thomas and Mary. In the 1930 census they were living in Park Street in Gardner where he owned the house they lived in. He had set up a Furniture Manufacturing company, the Gardner Upholstered Company, one of many in the city.

In 1942 there was a Draft Registration Card registered in his name when he was aged forty-nine but it is not clear if he served in WW2. He died in Gardner in June 1968 aged seventy-five.



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