The centenary of the sinking of the RMS Leinster off the coast of Dublin has been remembered by relatives in an emotional ceremony at the site where more than 500 civilians, postal workers, soldiers and crew met their deaths.
Scores of descendants of those who perished were brought to the area around four nautical miles from Dún Laoghaire at dawn yesterday to remember the dead, 100 years after the Leinster had set sail and was torpedoed by a German U-boat.
Of the 803 people on board, 564 died.
Before morning broke yesterday, the relatives boarded the St Bridget cruise boat from Dún Laoghaire, many clutching bouquets of flowers and photographs of their family members whose lives were snuffed out a century earlier.
As a pink sun edged over the horizon, the LE Orla naval vessel and an RNLI lifeboat also arrived at the wreck site, sounding their horns as flowers were dropped into the rolling sea.
Frances Fletcher described the event as “emotional but brilliant”. Her grandfather, Henry Loughlin, and his brothers Patrick and Michael, survived the sinking. But their cousin John Loughlin was killed.
“He was 45, an able seaman, a stoker on the boat. He left a widow and eight children behind,” said Ms Fletcher.
“It was stunning to be there at the site. I knew it would be good but I didn’t think it would be as emotional, but it was very emotional,” Frances told the Irish Independent.
“My grandfather Henry not only survived the sinking of the Leinster, but he was also on the Connaught when it was torpedoed on its way back from France in 1917.
“Understandably, my grandmother never wanted any of her children to go to sea after that,” she said with a smile.
Philip Tivy and his sons Warren and Gavin travelled from Youghal, Co Cork, to remember Philip’s grandparents Charlotte and Tom Foley.
“They were on their way to England to visit Charlotte’s brother who was a soldier who had been injured in the war. Charlotte was 41 and Tom was 36,” said Mr Tivy.
“Trying to picture it out there was difficult, it must have been a terrible scene.”