10th October 2018 marks the centenary of the worst ever recorded maritime disaster in the Irish Sea. The RMS Leinster was sunk on this day at around 10 a.m. by a German U-boat – UB-123 – near the Kish Bank, just outside Dublin Bay. 569 of the 771 people on board lost their lives. Among those who died were people from Australia, Ireland, Britain, Canada, the United States and New Zealand. Among the Irish were two sisters – Henrietta Howell (born 1856) and Ida Howell (born 1858) – who were living at that time in a house provided by the Church of Ireland at Lislee in Courtmacsherry, County Cork.
The family were well-travelled. Their grandparents, also from Cork – the Howells and Wigmores – were among the first settlers in Pickering, Ontario. Both families were involved in the lumber trade and prospered. Their father, also from Cork, had travelled to both Canada and New Zealand. By 1901, they were living with their widowed mother at Ivy Bank, Lislee, Courtmacsherry, County Cork.
Like far too many victims of the First World War Henrietta and Ida are remembered no where.
It would seem that the family were not well off financially and although they had no previous connection with the area, they were given the tenancy of the house in Ballycullinane as an act of solidarity with a family who had fallen on hard times and, of course, Mary Howell had been born into a Church of Ireland family in Castlelyons, County Cork over seventy years previously.
The sisters left Cork on Wednesday 9th and intended to stay the night in the Pier Hotel, Kingstown before crossing to Holyhead the following day on the mailboat, RMS Leinster. The Leinster was only 7.4 km outside Dublin Bay, when she was hit by three torpedoes fired from German submarine UB 123 on 10 October 1918. The mailboat sank in a very short time and 569 of the 771 on board were drowned. This was the greatest single loss of life ever in the Irish Sea.
Henrietta’s body was recovered and buried in an unmarked grave in Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin. Ida’s body was never recovered.
On Saturday next, 13th October, at the invitation of the local historical society, the Bishop of Cork, the Right Reverend Dr Paul Colton, will travel to Courtmacsherry and, in Lislee, will unveil a memorial to Henrietta and Ida Howell who died in the sinking of the RMS Leinster.
Courtmacsherry is the last place that Henrietta and Ida Howell called home. It is fitting that they will be remembered there.