The Sinking of the R.M.S. Leinster

People on board

Mary O'Doherty

O’DOHERTY, Mary Josephine

Mary Josephine O’Doherty was born in Derry on the 30th of March 1893 to Hugh Camillus O’Doherty and Lucy Charlotte Sinnott. She was the seventh of their eleven children, all alive in 1911. They were a notable family of high achievers, the Derry Journal in 1924 describing them as “inheriting qualities of character and intellect from [Hugh’s] brilliant father, a School Inspector”.  Hugh C O’Doherty was a Solicitor in Derry and in the 1880s and 1890s the family lived in Clarendon Street in the city. In the 1901 census their address was Shantallow but the exact street was not named. The three eldest boys were missing from this census; John has not been found but Joseph and James were pupils at Clongowes Wood College in Co Kildare. James emigrated to the U.S. in 1909 and none of the three were present at their father’s funeral in 1924.

In the 1911 census only the remaining eldest two, Hugh and Lucy, were at home in Derry. Louis was in university residence in Dublin and Colman was in Clongowes. Meanwhile the three younger girls, Mary Josephine, Angela Eva and Doris Margaret, as well as their youngest brother Frank, were all boarders in the La Sainte Union convent school in Pulteney Road, Bath. The Reverend Mother and Principal of the school was Mary Josephine O’Doherty, born in Derry and almost certainly a sister of Hugh C. O’Doherty.

Mary Josephine O’Doherty followed her brothers into university life and was attending Southampton University in 1918. Both the Belfast Newsletter and the Londonderry Sentinel reported on the 12th of October that she was returning to Southampton to complete her studies. Having previously travelled to England to school Mary O’Doherty would have felt reasonably comfortable about the journey and there were other single girls on board the Leinster that day, mostly travelling in pairs. There were 1st and 2nd class ladies cabins and a 1st class ladies sitting room, and there were three female stewardesses on board. When she was reported missing following the sinking of RMS Leinster her parents went to Dublin to search for her body but it had not been recovered.

Life went on for the family. Hugh joined his father in the family law business and Hugh Snr. who had been a supporter of Charles Stewart Parnell until the latter’s death, got involved in Derry politics again. In 1920 he was elected Mayor; as a Nationalist he was seen as a neutral candidate between the newly powerful Sinn Féin and the incumbent Unionists. The first Catholic Mayor of Derry since the 17th century, he was re-elected in 1922 and 1923. Life was turbulent in the city in this period and Hugh moved to Buncrana where he died in 1924. His wife and the girls moved to Dublin, living in 7 Clyde Road. Colman and Frank became doctors in England, Frank later returning to Dublin while Louis was a barrister in London. Angela married a Dublin solicitor and Lucy and Doris maintained independent single lives. Lucy O’Doherty née Sinnott died in 1941 aged eighty-one.



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