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  • Southside

Leinster tragedy remembered at book launch

Saturday, 18th November, 2017 4:00pm
Leinster tragedy remembered at book launch

William Byrne (Chief Stokers Relative) and Holyhead Mayor Cllr Ann Kennedy are pictured at the book launch in Dun Laoghaire.

Leinster tragedy remembered at book launch

William Byrne (Chief Stokers Relative) and Holyhead Mayor Cllr Ann Kennedy are pictured at the book launch in Dun Laoghaire.

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RELATIVES of victims and survivors of the Dun Laoghaire - Holyhead mail boat Leinster gathered last week to attend the launch of a book that tells the very human story of the tragedy.

They were joined on Thursday night by the Mayor of Holyhead, Cllr Ann Kennedy, the cathaoirleach of Dún Laoghaire Rathdown, Cllr Tom Murphy, and representatives of the Australian and Canadian governments at the launch of ‘The Last Voyage of the Leinster’.

The book tells the story of the loss of the Leinster and those who sailed on her when she was torpedoed in 1918 just outside Dublin Bay.

More Irish lives were lost when the Dún Laoghaire to Holyhead Mail Boat sunk in 1918 than on the Titanic in 1912 or the Lusitania in 1915.

Most of the 540 plus lives lost on the Leinster were Irish while on the Titanic the number of Irish deaths totalled 78 and on the Lusitania 140.

This book ‘The Last Voyage of the Leinster’ captures the human aspect of the loss of the Leinster to so many families, not only Irish but also Welsh, English, Scottish, Canadian, Australian, New Zealanders and American who were unlucky to have been traveling on that day, almost a century ago.

The Leinster, which was armed and also carrying soldiers returning to the war, was sunk in a wartime act, just a month before the end of World War 1, by the German U Boat 123.

The book brings together the British and German Ambassadors to Ireland who provide messages of peace and goodwill to the descendants of all those who were on the ship when it sunk.

It also directs their words to the families of those who were bereaved a few days later when the U Boat hit a mine and sunk with the loss of all aboard.

There is a major emphasis in this book on the postal sorters aboard who were the first to die when the first torpedo to strike the ship hit the postal sorting office with the death of all but one of the postmen present. 

The crew and ordinary passengers, including many nurses returning to training courses and work in British hospitals, are given great appreciations written mainly by descendants.

As the book states: “Family stories handed down through generations is arguably a better means of establishing the truth, especially as families have no agenda other than remembering their dead.”

The contrasting backgrounds of people aboard the ship are explored in great detail. The lives of British Army Officer, Captain Robert Lee, son of the Department Stores businessman and Unionist Edward Lee who died on the ship contrasts with that of another victim, Joseph Blake, one of the postal sorters.

Blake had three sons and five daughters. One son had previously died of his wounds having played an active part in the 1916 Rising, while another son went on to be an IRA leader and his five daughters were in Cumann na mBán. 

Joseph’s descendants include Liam Whelan, one of the ‘Busby babes’ who died in the Manchester United aircraft crash in 1958, while another is Aidan Gillen, the actor, best known for portraying Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish in HBO series Game of Thrones.

These parts of the Mail Boat Leinster story have never been previously published.

‘The Last Voyage of the Leinster’ hardback Coffee Table Book retails at €15 and is available in Easons and Dubarray Books.

(Dun Laoghaire).

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