The Sinking of the R.M.S. Leinster

People on board

John Stanislaus Hearn

HEARN, John Stanislaus

John Stanislaus Hearn was born about 1855, one of six sons of Michael Hearn, a Merchant in New Ross, Co Wexford. In Bassett’s directory of 1885 Michael’s business in South Street was a warehouse for agricultural implements, and sold hardware, wines and spirits, and seeds and manures as well as being a corn merchant. One of his sons, Denis, was Vice-Captain of the Boat Club. When John Hearn married in 1892 he was living in Bawn James across the River Barrow from the town of New Ross, a property described as “one of the finest and most agreeably situated in the vicinity”. John had married Elizabeth Twist in Moseley, Birmingham when he was aged thirty-nine, and they had one son, Charles Denis, born in 1895.

John Hearn was also a successful merchant, and by 1895 he had also been made a Justice of the Peace. He was a member of the Urban Council from 1899 and was Chairman for several years and also represented New Ross on Wexford County Council. In the early 1900s he set up the Wexford Engineering Company which ran the Star Iron Works in Wexford town.

At this time there were three iron works in Wexford, but although Star was the smallest it was employing 130 workers by 1911, and occupied a site of 75,000 square feet.

1911 was the year when James Larkin’s Irish Transport and General Workers Union began mobilising around the country, and in August opened offices in Wexford. As men began joining the union the foundry employers were the first to take action and refused to employ union members. Star Iron Works, under John S Hearn, was the last of the three to take this action, emphasising that membership of the union was the problem, not pay or conditions. The locked-out workers were replaced by others from outside the town, which inflamed the situation and violent scenes occurred. James Connolly came to Wexford the following February, and, aided by the fact that the Works were losing money through poor productivity, managed to broker an agreement. The workers were allowed back providing they did not join the I.T.W.G.U. but were allowed to join a new Union, the Irish Foundry Workers Union.

It can be presumed that John S Hearn was travelling to England on business on 10 October 1918 on RMS Leinster. He did not survive the sinking and his body was never recovered. The Star Iron Works were taken over, first by John’s brother James, and then by his son Charles, closing in the 1960s. John’s widow Elizabeth lived on in Bawn James until her death in 1939.



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