independent

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Grandchildren of Richard Lawlor in search for Wexford connection

The HMS Orbita
The HMS Orbita
The first page of Wexford man Richard Lawlor's naval diary

David Tucker

The last surviving grandchildren of Wexford man Richard Lawlor, whose naval journal from 100 years ago is kept in the County Archives, are trying to make contact with family members still living in the county.

In particular, they want to meet their late grandfather's great, great nephew Tony Godkin when they visit Wexford later this year.

Alan Mann, from Brisbane, in Australia, said that midway through World War One, his grandfather Richard Lawlor, from Tacumshane, was two years into a voyage on board HMS Orbita, with another 16 months still ahead of him before he would return home.

'Whilst at sea he kept a diary recording details of his experiences on board. That diary is now safely kept in County Wexford's archives, but its existence is probably known to few and I'm guessing is rarely read,' said Alan.

'Richard Lawlor was my great grandmother Mary Lawlor Doyle's younger brother. He was from Rostoonstown, Tacumshane. He served in the Royal Naval Reserve. The first mention of him in official records occurs on June 29, 1915, when he left Devonport Barracks for Belfast via Liverpool to join the HMS Orbita, a mail boat of 15,000 tons.'

The Orbita was built by Harland and Wolff for the Pacific Steam Navigation Company, 1913-14, but before her maiden voyage she taken over by the Admiralty as an auxiliary cruiser. Richard Lawlor's commission on board 'Orbita' lasted for three years and four months.

'Richard's brother-in-law, John Doyle served with him on the 'Orbita'.

'After the war, Richard continued his seafaring life and while on a voyage between Montreal and Hamburg in the 1940s he died from injuries he received in an accident aboard ship and was buried at sea,' said Alan.

Alan said he and his sister Teresa Pullginer, who lives in Lucca, Italy, are Richard Lawlor's only surviving grandchildren.

'Neither of us were born in Ireland and Richard died while our Mother was a child, so we knew very little of our grandfather, other than that he was lost at sea,' he said.

Alan said he came across part of his diary on a World War One history website, where it was uploaded by Tony Godkin, who described himself as Richard's great, great nephew.

'Our last tenuous link with our Irish family was Wexford man Dick Keeling who died in 2011. We plan to visit Wexford in June to see the diary and are keen to contact Tony, if he still lives in the area,' said Alan.

If anyone can help Alan and Teresa in their quest, they should contact David Tucker on (053) 9140130.

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