Official commemoration to mark the centenary of the sinking of the RMS Leinster to take place in Dún Laoghaire on Wednesday, 10th October 2018
The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan T.D., today announced that an official commemoration will take place in Dún Laoghaire on Wednesday, 10th October 2018, to mark the centenary of the sinking of the Royal Mail Steamer (RMS) Leinster and to remember all of those who perished in that tragedy. The programme will comprise a significant cultural element as well as a formal commemoration and wreath-laying ceremony, with participation by members of the Defence Forces. This is also the date on which the vessel will come under the protection of the National Monuments Acts, which covers all shipwrecks over 100 years old.
Just before 9 o’clock on the morning of Thursday, 10th October 1918, the Royal Mail Steamer (RMS) Leinster began its final voyage from Carlisle Pier in Dún Laoghaire (then Kingstown) to Holyhead in Wales. The ship was owned and operated by the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company. An estimated 771 passengers and crew were on board, comprising postal sorters, civilian passengers, military and medical personnel and the ship’s crew. Between 09.30 am and 09.40 am, the RMS Leinster passed the Kish Light. Shortly afterwards, it was sunk by three torpedoes, fired by German submarine, UB-123. What unfolded was the worst maritime disaster in the Irish Sea, with over 500 lives lost.
Speaking today, Minister Madigan said:
“On 10th October 2018, we will remember all of those who lost their lives one hundred years ago, when the Royal Mail Steamer (RMS) Leinster was sunk off the Kish Bank by German submarine UB-123. This tragedy took place one month and one day before the signing of the Armistice that ended the fighting in World War I and it remains the greatest maritime disaster ever to have occurred in the Irish Sea.
Over 500 people perished, including members of the ship’s crew, postal sorters, civilian passengers and military, medical and support personnel involved in the war effort. Families and communities on both sides of the Irish Sea and as far afield as America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, were devastated by this tragedy. We will also remember the 35 members of the crew of UB-123, who themselves were killed one week later. An immense humanitarian response was mobilised following the tragedy and we will acknowledge the care and kindness shown by the rescue services, nursing and medical personnel”.
The Minister added:
“I commend the efforts of all of those who have, for many years, worked so hard to ensure that the stories of all of those who were on board the RMS Leinster when she embarked upon her final journey are not forgotten. Their stories have, for too long, been hidden and unspoken. As we mark the centenary of this tragedy, we have developed an appreciation of the complex narratives around Ireland’s involvement in World War I and a mature understanding of the context of that time.
In particular, I wish to acknowledge the efforts of the late owner of the RMS Leinster, Mr Des Brannigan, who was committed to protecting the ship and was one of the founders of the National Maritime Museum in Dún Laoghaire. I would also like to sincerely thank Dún Laoghaire – Rathdown County Council, the family members of those affected by this tragedy, and the many other stakeholders who are working with my Department as we develop an inclusive, respectful and fitting ceremony in remembrance of all of those who died”.