Relative pays tribute to cousin killed in tragedy

by Rebecca Ryan
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Philip Lecane and Brian Ellis

A relative of a victim of the RMS Leinster tragedy is paying tribute to his cousin in the run up to the centenary.

This October marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Royal Mail Ship RMS Leinster by a German submarine near the Kish Bank just outside Dublin Bay.

It resulted in the tragic loss of 565 passengers and crew while en route from Dun Laoghaire Harbour to Holyhead.

The National Maritime Museum of Ireland in Dun Laoghaire have a dedicated exhibition in place until the end of 2018.

Honorary Librarian at the museum, Brian Ellis (73), and his wife Lucille are responsible for the touch screens.

Brian's Cousin Hugh Rowlands

Hugh Rowlands

Brian has a personal connection with the RMS Leinster as he lost his cousin Hugh Rowlands (41) on board.

Brian, from Dun Laoghaire, told Dublin Gazette that Hugh was a ticket clerk on the ship and there may have been another family member on board with him.

“Hugh was born in Holyhead. He was from a long line of sea farers. His uncle, who was a captain with the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company, had some problem with his eyesight so he wasn’t allowed operate a ship, but he was given a job as a Peer Master in Kingston [now Dun Laoghaire].

“So, I’m fairly certain he would have been there on that day with his nephew [Hugh] as the ticket checker.

“When I was doing the family research and following up the connections in Holyhead [I found that] Hugh had two daughters.

“I eventually contacted one of the decedents of one of the daughters who gave me more information.”

Philip Lecane (65), who volunteers alongside Brian at the museum’s library, has written books on the RMS Leinster. ‘Torpedoed! The RMS Leinster Disaster’ (2005) and his next book ‘Women and Children of the RMS Leinster: Restored to History’ is out soon.

Philip, from Monkstown, has been volunteering at the museum since he retired as a public servant two years ago.

He is from Cork originally but came here in 1984 and joined the local history society.

He said that people used to mention the Leinster but not many details were known. “It was like a jumbo jet had gone down in Dublin Bay and nobody knew who was on board. I just set out then to research it.”

Philip started making a list of all the passengers and started to fill in their stories.

He then got in touch with Brian Ellis.

Brian Ellis and Philip Lecane on the touch screens at the museum

Brian Ellis and Philip Lecane on the touch screens at the museum

“Brian then developed the touch screens system with two UCD students. I’ve been working on contacting people abroad and trying to research the general story.”

Brian and Philip told us that the list of victims and survivors of the Leinster is ever changing as research continues.

“Presently 565 people died out of 805 people. Out of those 565 people, only half the bodies were recovered. “Almost 150 of those bodies are buried in Grangegorman Military Cemetery.”

It is fascinating to talk to Brian and Philip as their knowledge of the RMS Leinster is incredibly vast.

The National Maritime Museum in Dun Laoghaire is well worth a visit and checking out the touchscreens, a must.

The Museum will be open free of charge during the commemorative week October 6-14.

For more information visit and

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