Time to commemorate Leitrim’s forgotten Titanic victim

IT is regarded as one of the worst maritime disasters in history and next year the world is set to commemorate the centenary of the loss of SS Titanic on April 15, 1912.

IT is regarded as one of the worst maritime disasters in history and next year the world is set to commemorate the centenary of the loss of SS Titanic on April 15, 1912.

IT is regarded as one of the worst maritime disasters in history and next year the world is set to commemorate the centenary of the loss of SS Titanic on April 15, 1912.

Plans are already underway for commemorations and memorials the length and breadth of the country but here in Co Leitrim there is, as yet, no public marker to honour our county’s only victim of this tragedy - Matthew Sadlier.

By Leonie McKiernan

Matthew was the youngest of seven surviving children, son of Matthew and Kate (Catherine) Sadlier, a Church of Ireland family living in the shadow of their employers at Clooncoo, Lough Rynn, Mohill.

Young Matthew’s ancestors had served as land agents for the now infamous Lord Leitrim, however, like many families living in Co Leitrim at the turn of the century, they had fallen on harder times.

The 1901 Census shows nine members of the family living under one roof with Matthew Snr working as a labourer along with his two oldest sons, Thomas (19) and William. His wife, Kate, is listed as working as a housekeeper and her elder daughters Jane Anne and Fanny are servants, while the three youngest children, including Matthew, are still at school.

By the time of the 1911 Census, Matthew Snr was working as a shepherd. His wife, Kate, at 59, was no longer working and only two children remained at home, Catherine, aged 19 and Matthew Jnr, 18, who is listed as an agricultural labour.

We know that at least some of the family had already opted to emigrate to America because Matthew Jnr was planning to join his oldest brother, Thomas, in Lakewood, New Jersey. This fact is listed amongst the Titanic records.

One thing is certain, Kate did not want her youngest child to leave as so many of his siblings had done so before. She had already buried at least two of her children and the omens were certainly not good for Matthew’s trip.

Local reports hold that on the morning of his departure for Queenstown (Cobh) a cockerel came to the doorstep of the Sadlier home and crowed three times. Superstition says this heralds a death in the family and it must have been this which prompted Kate Sadlier to declare “That’s enough now!” before grabbing the suitcase from the hands of her youngest child. Her protests, however, went unheeded and shortly afterwards Matthew retrieved his suitcase and made his farewells.

To read the full story see this week’s Leitrim Observer.