Richard Williams was born at Holyhead and lived with his wife Catherine and son, also named Richard, at 9 Rock Street in the Millbank area of Holyhead. He had been a seaman for most of his working life and was 53 years old when lost on RMS Leinster.
The photograph was taken at Southampton when he was serving as Bosun on HMT (RMS) Connaught, sister ship to RMS Leinster. She had been taken over by the Admiralty to carry troops across the English Channel to the battlefields of France and Belgium. In March 1917 the Connaught was torpedoed on the way back to Southampton with the loss of three crew members. Many of the surviving crew were relocated to positions on the remaining City of Dublin Steam Packet Company ships – Munster, Ulster and Leinster. Richard moved to serve on RMS Leinster but lost his position as Bosun and was employed as a Seaman.
When news of the sinking of the Leinster reached Holyhead relatives of those on board were desperate for information, not knowing if their fathers, sons or daughters had survived or not. Young Richard Williams, aged about 13, was sent to 13 Well Street where it was known that Evan Rowlands, a Gunner on the Leinster, had reached Holyhead. Evan was serving with the Royal Naval Reserve but had previously been a Quartermaster on the Leinster and was probably well known to the Williams family.
The family story continues with the information that Evan Rowlands’ daughter, Dorothy (Dora), who was about 11 years old at the time, was the one who answered the door and asked young Richard in. This was the first meeting between Richard and Dorothy who later became friends, found love and eventually married.
The medals include those awarded to Richard Williams at the end of the Great War. They comprise the Mercantile Medal, the British War Medal and the RNR Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. They have been donated to the Holyhead Maritime Museum by his granddaughter, Beryl Mair Williams, the only child of Richard and Dora Williams. Sadly she passed away just prior to the ‘RMS Leinster Centenary Commemorations’. She had the unique relationship with the loss of the Leinster as she had both Grandfathers on the vessel – one survived, the other lost. This post is dedicated to her memory.
Thank you for this fascinating story. Beryl Mair Williams, Rest In Peace
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Thank you for your kind remarks, Philip. Beryl was my wife’s cousin. She so wanted to be at Holyhead but other matters got in the way. Evan Rowlands was my wife’s grandfather.