Anchor memorial to 501 mailboat dead

 

THE anchor of the RMS Leinster, the mailboat sunk by a German torpedo with the loss of 501 lives, was erected yesterday at Dun Laoghaire, the port it left on its last voyage on October 10th 1918. The Minister of State for the Marine, Mr Eamon Gilmore, officiated.

It remains the worst sea tragedy in Irish history. Of the 685 people on board, 22 were post office workers sorting mail, 70 were crew, and the vast majority were soldiers returning to first World War battlefields. The ship was hit 12 miles out and 184 people were rescued by the British destroyers RMS Mallard and RMS Lively.

Speaking at the commemoration ceremony, Mr Gilmore asked: "Was the tragedy of the Leinster lost in the euphoria of the Armistice just one month after its sinking? Did it drown in the turmoil of the years after 1918 which led to the establishment of the Irish Free State? Was the new Irish State so anxious to assert its independence from Britain, too uncomfortable with the fact that the vast majority of Irish people who lost their lives on the Leinster were wearing the uniform of the British army?"

The commemoration was organised by the Dun Laoghaire Harbour Board, and local clergy from all denominations said prayers of remembrance at the site. Among the guests were those who recovered the anchor from the sea, relatives of survivors and of those who died, and local people. A pamphlet on the tragedy, sponsored by the Communications Workers Union, was launched.