The Sinking of the R.M.S. Leinster

People on board

Hugh Rowlands


Hugh Rowlands was born in Holyhead on 29th May 1877, son of David and Mary (née Hughes) Rowlands and grew up at 33 Newry St., Holyhead. He was descended from a long line of Welsh mariners.

His great grandfather, William Rowlands had served with the Holyhead Lifeboat for over 30 years, including many as Coxswain, before retiring in his 75th year in 1877. In 1866 William had been awarded the Silver Medal of the RNLI and a Second Service clasp in 1867.

William’s second son, John, had gone to sea at the age of 15 and, after almost 20 years in the coastal and foreign shipping trade, joined the Government Mail service. After many years serving on their paddle steamers he joined the City of Dublin Steam Packet Co. in the 1860s initially serving on the PS Connaught, the first steamer in the world to exceed a speed of 18 knots. On his retirement at the age of 66 he was Chief Officer of the PS Munster.
John’s eldest son, David, also went to sea at an early age, serving initially as a Cabin Boy and later Steward, sometimes on the same ship as his father.

David married Mary Hughes in Holyhead in 1874 and they had 3 children; John, born in 1876 (who served as an Engineer in the CDSPCo. works in Holyhead), Hugh, born in 1877 and a daughter, Anne, who died as a child.
Hugh had been at school in the Park School, Holyhead and was, for some time, a pupil teacher there. However, Hugh soon followed in the wake of his ancestors and joined the CDSPCo, working as a Ticket Clerk. On 28th Oct 1903 Hugh married Mary Catherine Williams in the Baptist Church in Holyhead. Hugh and Mary had 2 daughters, Jane Mair b. 1905 and Gwyneth b. 1910.

Hugh’s uncle, John Rowlands had also followed the family tradition starting in 1867, at the age of 14, as a Cabin Boy on the CDSPCo PS Leinster. John obtained his Master Mariners Certificate in 1879. In 1884 he was appointed as Pier Master in Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) for the CDSPCo and his family moved from Holyhead to live on Tivoli Terrace, North in Kingstown.

As Pier Master it would have been John Rowlands’ duty to ensure the departure of the RMS Leinster on time on the morning of 10th October 1918. His nephew, Hugh, would have also been involved in checking tickets.
Hugh Rowlands

Hugh Rowlands was lost in the sinking. His body was not recovered and he is remembered on a plaque in Park School, Holyhead and on the Cenotaph in Holyhead.

Hugh RowlandsBoth of Hugh’s daughters trained as teachers, with Gwyneth later teaching at the Park School, Holyhead, where her father had been a pupil teacher. Contact is still maintained between Hugh’s descendants in Wales and descendants of John Rowlands, Pier Master, in Dun Laoghaire.




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