In a very wet day on Saturday 13th October, on a hillside near Courtmacsherry, County Cork, the Bishop of Cork, Dr Paul Colton, unveiled a memorial to Henrietta and Ida Howell, two sisters who lived at Ballycullinane in that parish, and who perished in the sinking of the RMS Leinster when it was hit by two torpedoes on 10th October 1918.
The two sisters, with family connections to the Church fo Ireland in County Cork, were born in the mid Nineteenth Century, and had settled in Courtmacsherry following a life story that spanned three continents and four countries. Their full story is told by Mary Holly-O’Leary of the Courtmacsherry and Barryroe District Historical Group that invited Bishop Colton to perform the honours on Saturday.
Originally it had been planned to create a new memorial plaque and to place it in the ruins of Lislee Parish Church where the Howell sisters worshipped, however, new information came to light following research and contact with a descendant of the sisters now living in Australia. Their mother’s grave was identified in the adjoining churchyard. It was decided to add the memorial inscription to that headstone. Ida’s body was never found, and Henrietta’s is buried in an unmarked grave in Dublin.
A minute’s silence was kept, following which Bishop Colton unveiled the memorial and a wreath was laid. Due to the inclement weather, the gathering then relocated to the Community Centre in Courtmacsherry where Mary Holly-O’Leary told the story of the Howell family. It may be found here: The Howell Family – Mary Holly-O’Leary
The poem RMS Leinster was read and the local choir sang the hymn Eternal father strong to save. Bishop Colton addressed the gathering and referred warmly to the President of Ireland’s recent speech at the closing of the Dublin Festival of History and to the President’s use of the phrases ‘contested histories’ and ‘ethical remembering’. “‘Contested histories” is an important concept,’ he said ‘ because we all do tell our stories and our history from our own point of view, but what about the other person’s point of view?”
The Bishop said:
In this Decade of Centenaries, and in the coming years in particular, especially here in County Cork, local history societies such as this one [Courtmacsherry and Barryroe District Historical Society] play a crucial part in enabling and facilitating conversations about our ‘contested histories’.
Local parishioner, Harold Kingston, read the poem by David Krieger Today is not a good day for war and, before refreshments, the choir concluded with Dona nobis pacem – ‘grant us peace’.