The Sinking of the R.M.S. Leinster

People on board

John Martin Keane

KEAN(E), John Martin Victor

John Martin Victor Kean (sometimes Keane) was born on the 24th January 1896 in Popotunoa in the Otago district of New Zealand’s South Island. His parents, Denis Kean and Maria Josephine Corcoran, were originally from Ireland and had married in Dunedin in 1878. The eldest child, Margaret, was born in 1880 and there were at least two more daughters as well as three sons, John being the youngest. Maria died in the July following John’s birth, and Denis, a Sheep Farmer, died in 1910.

All three brothers enlisted with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, naming one another or their sister Margaret as their next-of-kin. Peter was a ‘Farm Labourer’, Denis was a ‘Shearer’ and John was a ‘Farmer’. Denis fought at Gallipoli and all three were in Egypt and France. Peter was killed in France on the 4th November 1918 and is remembered on his parents’ grave. Denis survived and returned to New Zealand, enlisting again in WW2 when his occupation was ‘Hotel Manager'.

John enlisted in November 1915, giving his sister, Mrs Margaret Brown, as his next-of-kin. In Egypt first, he was sent to France in April 1916 and was at Étaples and Armentières and was wounded in September. This was reported in the Otago papers. He was sent to England to hospital but was back in France in May 1917. He was promoted Lance Corporal on the 20th August 1918 and four days later was wounded again. He was transferred again to England where he was classified as ‘Unfit’.

It is not clear why he was in Ireland but he was returning to England on RMS Leinster on the 10th October. Initially he was reported missing, believed drowned, after the sinking but was later located in the King George V hospital in Dublin, where he was suffering from influenza. He was removed from the ‘Seriously ill’ lists in November and, having recovered, he returned to New Zealand on the 8th December 1918 on SS Ruahine.

In 1928 he married Violet Hermione Cotterell and they had two children. Living in Auckland, John was first listed as ‘Salesman’ on the Electoral Rolls, but later became a ‘Bookseller’. He died in 1955 and is buried in Waikumete Cemetery in Auckland where the Commonwealth War Graves Commission honours veterans, as well as casualties of the war. John’s name, with those of his two brothers, also appears on the Waikaka and District War Memorial.





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