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Headstone is erected 94 years after burial of Portadown soldier

Headstone is erected 94 years after burial of Portadown soldier

A CEREMONY has taken place at a graveyard in Portadown to mark the erection of a headstone for a soldier who had been buried there 94 years ago.

Private James Neill, a member of the Royal Irish Fusilliers, had died when his troopship, RMS Leinster, was torpedoed by a German U-boat in the Irish sea on October 10, 1918 (see below).

Private Neill had been returning with hundreds of other troops who had been serving in France. The Leinster sank 16 miles out from Dún Laoghaire (then known as Kingstown) with the loss of 501 lives. It was the greatest loss of life in the Irish Sea.

His remains were brought back to his home town Portadown and buried in Seagoe Cemetery, but no headstone was erected at the time.

Confusion then arose when another Portadown man, also named James Neill and also a private in the Royal Irish Fusilliers, was killed in action in France. He was buried close to the battlefield and his grave was eventually marked by a headstone erected by Commonwealth War Graves Commission. His death was also marked back in Portadown when his name was added to the family’s memorial plaque in Seagoe Cemetery.

The fact that there was no headstone to mark the resting place of the other Private Neill in Seagoe only came to light when a volunteer from the War Graves Photographic Project was carrying out work at the cemetery. 

But it was to take a further six years to sort out the confusion and arrange for the headstone to be erected. However, since it proved impossible to establish the exact position of Private Neill’s grave, the headstone has been placed close to the main entrance at Seagoe.

For more information on the RMS Leinster disaster, click here.

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