The Sinking of the R.M.S. Leinster

Poetry & Song

The Mail Boat Leinster

On 26 August 1946 Father Joe Ranson wrote down the following from Patrick Doyle, Kilmacoe, Co. Wexford. Patrick Doyle sang the song to the air of another local ballad, “The Poulshone Fishermen.”


You feeling hearted Christians all in country or in town
come listen to my doleful song which I have just penned down
‘Tis all about the wartime act, that awful tragedy
when the Dublin mail boat Leinster was sunk in the Irish Sea

On the tenth day of October, nineteen eighteen being the year,
the mail boat on her passage went I mean to let you hear:
with six hundred and ninety passengers and seventy of a crew,
she sailed from Kingstown Quay for Holyhead bound to


In pride and stately grandeur, the Leinster plodded her way
and all on board were of good cheer with spirits light and gay
‘not fearing that the submarine was lurking ‘neath the wave
to send them all unto their doom and to a watery grave


The submarine came at them when they did least expect
and fired torpedoes at the boat which quickly took effect
her boilers burst the flames ascend with fury to the sky,
‘mid echoes of the deafening din you could hear the women cry.


Oh the Leinster now is sinking fast and she is going down
and many too while in their bunks are numbered with the drowned
the passengers, their lifebelts on unto the boats repair
while cries for help do rend the skies in sad and wild despair


Now to conclude and finish, my doleful lines to close
May God have mercy on their souls and grant them sweet repose
Beside the mail boat Leinster they quietly now do sleep
Amid the cold and changeless waters of the Irish Sea so deep


A Father's Grief

Teenagers Anthony Baker, Anthony Jones and Ralph Murray, students of the Irish School of Telegraphy, Cork were lost on the Leinster. The body of Anthony Jones was recovered and buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Cork. The bodies of Anthony Baker and Ralph Murray were never recovered.

Les Morts

They sleep in quiet waters where Kish towers,
‘Mid sand and slender sea-grass soft and deep,
Through all the sunlit and the moonlit hours
They sleep

They are content, they murmur not, nor weep:
No rushing flotsam hastes to mock their powers;
They are content, and very deep
Their sleep

No tombs enclose them, and they need no flowers,
No mothers’ kisses make their fond hearts leap—
‘Mid slender sea-grass, bending where Kish towers
They sleep.

In deep and sorrowing memory of my three pupils, Anthony Baker, Anthony Jones and Ralph Murray, the last-named my son, all aged 17 years, who died the death of martyrs on October 10th, 1918, torpedoed aboard the RMS Leinster, during a rough and swift-running sea, and in sight of the Kish Rock Lighthouse.
—Albert Murray

Leinster Poem

RMS Leinster

Thursday 10th October 1918 and the end of World War One was nigh,
And of 771 passengers aboard the RMS Leinster, 501 were today to die.

At the end of that fateful day, as the true horror of the tragedy unfurled,
we learned of the loss of crew, of military personnel from around the world.

From Ireland, Wales, England, Scotland, America, New Zealand, Australia, Canada,
For in World Wars our men and women bravely came from so near and far.

This was the greatest ever loss of life in the Irish Sea, and there is no denying,
a terrible waste of life, children, mothers, families left distraught and crying.

The Leinster had been hit, struck by torpedoes, and not just one but two,
A German submarine UB-123, its torpedoes fired so accurately and true.

We do not look back in anger, for the young German crew there is no shame,
for in War, troops fight in the belief and orders, and attributed can be no blame.

Later, returning home, the German submarine stuck a mine in the North Sea,
the 35 crew were killed, now just memories, for family and German history.

The RAF, Royal Welch Fusiliers, Navy, Army, the forces lost fine young men,
and in Josephine Carr from Cork in active service was lost the first WREN.

Who could have foreseen, sailing from Kingstown, Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead,
that so many civilians, postal workers and crew, would also be injured or dead.

Now hands extended via the Holyhead and Dun Laoghaire Link, across the Irish Sea,
Result in “Friends of the Leinster” holding a memorial service, to their memory.

The commemoration not to just the 501, many still in their watery graves,
but to also honour those who assisted the survivors, ensuring that 270 were saved.

In St Michael's and St Cybi’s the congregation will hear the peal of the church bells ring, and hear the pupils of St Joseph's, Dun Laoghaire and Park School, Holyhead sing.

We will never forget our forefathers who perished in war, on land, in air or at sea,
for it is they who ensure we are here today, living in peace, freedom and liberty.

God Rest Their Souls

Jeff Evans, Holyhead, Chairman Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead Link. Specially written for the 2003 commemoration services in Dun Laoghaire and Holyhead.

Frank Higgerty

Leinster passenger Francis Edward Higgerty was a Canadian whose ancestors had come from Ireland. On his way to take up a commission in the British Army, he took the opportunity to visit the land of his ancestors. The visit cost him his life.

Frank Higgerty liked to write poetry. The emotional effect of visiting Ireland, the land of his ancestors, is shown in the following poem, written in Dublin on 8 October, two days before the Leinster sinking. The poem was found on his body.

From Canada my homeland, to Ireland my Sireland
From Ottawa to Dublin, some three thousand miles away
The call of one’s relations, above the din and war of countries
Conserves the one green spot in memory for ever and a day.
And when back o’er the sea I wander to the land that there lies yonder
I’ll bring tidings from dear old Ireland to the land I adore,
To Canada my homeland, from Erin my own Sireland,
Stretch fond memories and emotions for ever and evermore.

More information on Frank Higgerty may be found in The Canadian Connection part of the website.

Poem by Isabella Duncan

In Loving Memory of William Duncan (son), who was lost on the mail boat Leinster sailing between Kingstown and Holyhead on his way home from Curragh Camp.

10th October 1918

1915c, James II and William Duncan
William Duncan (standing) with brother James

“In my father’s house are many mansions”

The golden sun was sinking in the west,
The labourer’s toil was over for the day,
A solider’s wife stood by her cottage door,
And called her little children in from play.

The frugal supper past, with eager face
They gathered round that gentle mother’s chair,
That consecrated spot beloved by God,
Made sacred by the children’s simple prayer.

And kneeling there, hands folded on their breast,
Their faces turned to Christ, the children’s friend,
(Who loves their praise) they lisp their evening prayer.
This night when I lie down right to the end.

Oh God bless mammy and my daddy too
And all my friends wherever they may be.
And when the war is over, blessed God,
Bring daddy safely home to mother and to me.

The mother kissed her dear ones both good-night,
And laid them in their little bed to rest;
But as she turned to resume her work,
Bring daddy home found echo in her breast.

Away in Curragh Camp, across the Irish Sea,
A little band of Highlanders together sit,
They spend the night in mirth and merry chat,
And help their pal to pack his humble kit.

For he was going home; ere very long
He’d see again the bonnie hills of Fife,
Where his old folks await to welcome him,
His little bairnies and his faithful wife.

Wild blew the gale on that October morn
As to the ‘Leinster’ hundreds took their way.
Not wind or storm can daunt our laddie’s heart,
For he’s got leave and going home today.

But ere the ‘Leinster’ many knots had sailed,
What brings that horror on the Captain’s face.
A submarine. “Oh God preserve us all.
Our only hope is in Thy saving grace”.

The women wept, the children shrieked aloud,
But tears or cries won’t stay the murderer’s hand.
A torpedo fired, the ‘Leinster’ struck,
The captain turned to make again for land.

Too late. The murderer’s work is not complete,
The noble Captain’s efforts are in vain.
Another shot is fired, the ‘Leinster’s sunk
Beneath the cruel waves, no more to rise again.

And one who listened to the bairnie’s prayer,
Sent to this earth a messenger of love.
He saw their daddy’s spirit hovering there,
And bore him safely to God’s home above.

Thy will be done, Great God, not ours the choice,
We fain would keep the ones that you would take.
But though we mourn, we will not complain.
Thou knowest best. Thou makest no mistake.

Fain would we clasp again that loving hand.
Fain would we hear that cheery voice once more.
But grieve we not as those who have no hope,
Our dear one is not lost, but only gone before.

Only a little while we too shall hear the call,
A few more years, our summons too will come,
And we will go where our dear boy stands
To welcome us to God’s eternal home.





The Mail Boat Leinster

A father's Grief

Leinster Poem

Frank Higgerty

Isabella Duncan

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