The Sinking of the R.M.S. Leinster

People on board

William John Lewis

LEWIS, William John

William John Lewis was born in Holyhead in 1864 to Lewis William Lewis and his wife Ann Jones, both of whom were also born in Holyhead. William John was the eldest of eight children and the family lived in Newry Street in the harbour area of the town. Lewis William Lewis, who died in 1883, was Chief Steward, working with the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company on the Mailboats, and two of his three sons, William John and Lewis, followed him in that career. The third son, Robert, also went to sea, as a sailor, and was Second Mate on the Cambrian Monarch in 1904 when he drowned trying to recover the ship’s lifeboat in heavy seas off the coast of Chile. Six men drowned in the incident, including two others from Anglesey. Also on board that ship was a Kingstown sailor, John Rowlands, whose father was from Holyhead but then was working as Piermaster in Kingstown for the CDSPCo. John’s first cousin, Hugh Rowlands Ticket Clerk, from Holyhead, was lost on RMS Leinster on 10th October 1918.

William John Lewis married Jane Davies in 1893 in Swansea and they lived in Newry Street. They had no children. In 1899 one of his sisters, Elizabeth, married William Mathias from Holyhead and they also lived in Newry Street. Mathias also worked for the CDSPCo and was the Acting Chief Engineer on the RMS Leinster on 10th October 1918. In the 1881 census at the age of sixteen William John Lewis gave his occupation as ‘Mariner’. In 1891 he was a ‘Steward’ on RMS Ulster and in 1903 he was named as ‘Shore Steward’ on the probate papers for his mother’s will. In the 1911 Census his job title was ‘Superintendent of Catering on Steamships’.

It is not clear what his role was on the ship that fateful day in October. He was variously described as ‘Superintendent Steward’ and ‘Shore Steward’ but also as not being rostered to be on duty that day. For that reason he was not formally included as a ‘War Casualty’ though his widow did receive compensation from the Board of Trade. In his account of the disaster his brother Lewis mentioned that he was speaking to William when the torpedo struck the ship, and other reports said that he had helped to launch a lifeboat, but he did not survive. His body was not recovered but he is remembered on the grave in Maeshyfrydd cemetery in Holyhead, along with his wife.


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