The Sinking of the R.M.S. Leinster

People on board

John Whittaker


John Whittaker was born in Burnley, Lancashire in 1863 to Miles Whittaker and Nancy Tillotson. This was Miles’s second marriage; his first to Mary Flannigan ended with her premature death, apparently with no children. Nancy Tillotson came to the marriage with a daughter Isabella, and John was the only other child. Miles gave his occupation in succeeding censuses as Cotton Sizer, Painter and Tripe Dealer. In the 1881 census, seventeen year old John was a Cotton Weaver.

In 1882 John Whittaker married Mary Elizabeth Duckworth and they had four children, Dora 1882, Miles 1884, Ruth 1885 and Walter in 1898. Mary Elizabeth died the same year as the birth of Walter at the age of forty. In the 1901 census Walter was with his Duckworth grand-mother and aunts who were then also living in Princess Street. In 1902 John Whittaker remarried, to Mary Ellen Kearney and they had four further children, Fred 1905, Jack 1908, Edward 1910 and Mabel 1914. In the 1911 census Walter, and the three children born by then, were living together with John and Mary Ellen in 8 Princess Street.

From the beginning of the first marriage the family lived in Princess Street in Burnley and remained there. While retaining his trade as a Cotton Weaver, John Whittaker enlisted in the East Lancashire Regiment, Service Number 20066. He retired in May 1913 from the Volunteers and Territorials after twenty-eight years and thirty-six days service, according to the Burnley Express, possessing the Volunteers Long Service Medal. He was well known and popular in Burnley and worked as a checker in Burnley Football Club for many years and as an assistant trainer. He was employed in later years as a Loom Oiler in the Coronation Mill in the town.

At the beginning of the war John Whittaker re-enlisted in the army into the Royal Defence Corps. In October 1918 he was with the 461st Protection Company in Ireland and was returning home to see his son Walter who was home on leave after serving three and a half years in France as a Driver in the Royal Field Artillery.

On Friday the 11th of October Mary Ellen Whittaker received a telegram from Ireland asking had Sergeant Whittaker arrived home safely. She was later informed that he had drowned in the torpedoing of RMS Leinster. His body was recovered and he was buried in Grangegorman Military Cemetery in Dublin, but because of sailing restrictions his widow was unable to attend. His name is recorded on the Burnley Roll of Honour. Mary Ellen Whittaker got word at the same time that her brother Walter was seriously ill in a military hospital in Whitchurch, but fortunately he survived.



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