The Sinking of the R.M.S. Leinster

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Owen Ward

WARD, Owen

Owen Ward was born about 1879 in Corlygorm, close to the town of Carrickmacross in County Monaghan. His father, also Owen, was farming the land, with his brother Patrick, that their father Constantine was leasing at the time of Griffith’s Valuation in the 1850s. His mother, Catherine Farmer, was from nearby Lattylannigan. There were at least six children in the family, Owen being one of the older, and they grew up alongside their cousins who, in later life, became a parish priest, a reverend mother and a Fianna Fáil minister.

Owen Ward was first appointed to the R.I.C. on 1 September 1899 on the recommendation of the District Inspector in Carrickmacross, Joseph Smyth. He was posted to Donegal in February 1900 and was in the Gweedore barracks in 1901. In January 1907 he was moved to Londonderry and then Belfast. That year he married Rosina Hughes, daughter of Head Constable William Hughes, in Buncrana and he took her to Belfast where he was stationed on the Springfield Road.

In 1910 he was promoted to Acting-Sergeant in Sligo, having taken seventh place in the internal competitive examination, and was promoted Sergeant two years later. He was appointed Inspector of Weights and Measures in Sligo town, altogether spending seven years in the county.

Owen WardDuring this period Rosina gave birth to three children, Mary Kathleen in 1910, Owen Patrick in 1912, and Henry Joseph in 1913 while they were living in Leekfield, Skreen. After moving into the town, another child, Francis Gerald, was born in 1915, only surviving for ten weeks. Then in February 1917 Owen was promoted again to Portumna in County Galway where a final child, Anthony Francis, known as Gerard, was born in April 1917. Despite only being in his mid-thirties Owen was promoted again the following February to the position of Head Constable and sent to Ennis in County Clare, a town that was experiencing much unrest from republican supporters.

On 10 October 1918 Owen Ward was travelling to England on RMS Leinster. Reports vary as to his destination city, as do his reasons for travelling, which vary from escort duty, to official business, to secret mission. He did not survive the sinking but his body was recovered and his remains were brought to Broomfield parish church in Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan and interred in the family burial ground. His name is inscribed on the WW1 Peace Memorial in the Ennis Peace Park.

Testimonials to Owen Ward, ranging from the Ennis Petty Sessions to The Constabulary Gazette, all praised his marked ability and efficiency as well as his even temper and impartiality. All lamented the loss of such potential at such an early age. The townspeople of Ennis raised a very generous sum for his widow and children. A Dundalk businessman, Thomas Callan Macardle, wrote to the Irish Times and the Belfast Telegraph pointing out the injustice to Owen Ward’s widow and family in the way the R.I.C. pension was calculated in Ireland compared to England and Scotland, where a much higher amount was paid. The official record shows that Rosina received £39 annually, with an allowance of £2 10s for each child.

Rosina moved first to Carrickmacross with the children, and then in 1920 she moved to Kingstown, opening a small stationer’s shop at 3a Lower George’s Street. She lived there until her death in 1951.



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