People on board
Michael Joyce was born on Inisheer, Co Galway on the 19th of September 1877 to John Joyce and Bridget Faherty. He was the youngest of their seven identified living children. Inisheer is the smallest of the three Aran Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off Galway, approximately three square miles in size, made of karst limestone with poor, thin soil. Irish-speaking and isolated, fishing and sheep farming were among the few occupations available. John Joyce was also a ‘Pilot’ as had been his father, presumably guiding boats into the harbour on the north of the island.
Bridget Joyce died in July 1885 of tuberculosis, followed by her daughter Nappy the following year, of the same disease. John Joyce was also dead by the time of his eldest son, Bryan’s, marriage in 1888. Another son, John, emigrated to Massachusetts in 1890. In the 1901 and 1911 censuses Bryan Joyce was living in a 3rd class house with a thatched roof, which may have been the original family home.
In November 1897 Michael Joyce enlisted in the Royal Navy at Devonport, giving his date of birth as the 1st of August 1878. He signed on for twelve years and renewed his service in 1909. During that time his service record shows that he worked on multiple ships as a Stoker, always with a character assessment of Very Good. He was awarded a medal in 1913, though the record does not give any detail. In November 1915 he was promoted to Acting Leading Stoker, becoming Leading Stoker the following May. From the 1st of September 1917 he was serving on HMS Hecla, which at the time was a Depotship at Buncrana, Co Donegal for the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla and Auxiliary Patrol.
It is not known why Michael Joyce was travelling on RMS Leinster on the 10th of October 1918. It is possible that he was travelling to Britain to take up a position on a new ship. He did not survive the sinking nor was his body recovered. His name is recorded on the Plymouth Naval Memorial. His brother Bryan was given as his next-of-kin and Michael’s medal entitlement was issued to him.