The tragic story of Lindon Bates Jr and Island Eddy

On Friday morning, 30th July, 1915 the body of a ‘well-dressed man’ washed ashore at Island Eddy. The island, which sits at the inner eastern end of Galway Bay had a population of 38 and a total of seven families recorded in the 1911 Census.

The remains were discovered by a resident on the Island, John Conlon. The Connacht Tribune reported that ‘the Kilcolgan police were notified...and Sergt. Costello proceeded by boat to the Island, (where ) it was discovered that the body was that of Mr. Lindon Bates Junior, a wealthy American citizen’.

Bates was a first-class passenger on the Lusitania, which had sunk twelve weeks previously off the Old Head of Kinsale, Cork, having been torpedoed by a German submarine. A talented young man who, by the age of 32, had already established himself in New York City as an engineer and a local politician, Bates was bound for London to serve with Herbert Hoover’s Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB ).

His father, founder of a successful engineering company also worked on behalf of the Commission, along with his wife and second son, Lindell. Lindon Bates, Jr., known as Rox was unmarried at the time of his death.

Having travelled some 230 miles along the Atlantic coast, Bates’ body was badly decomposed by the time it was discovered on Island Eddy. In a telegram sent from Queenstown (now Cobh ), Cork, on May 15 by Lindell Bates to his father in New York, he warned that the ‘chances (of ) recovery (are ) infinitesimal’.

Railway ticket

Some accounts report that Mr Bates was identified by a first class railway ticket, issued on board the Lusitania for travel from Liverpool to London. A telegram from Lindon Bates, Sr. to his son Lindell sent on 13th May reads ‘for helping identification, Rox had a single thousand dollar note which he meant exchange in London’. No further reference to this money was found.

John Conlon of Island Eddy was awarded £100 by the American Consul at Queenstown for the recovery of the body. The Connacht Tribune wrote that ‘it could not have fallen into kinder hands than the man who discovered it, and who placed his car and horse at the disposal of Mr. Walsh, R.O., to remove the body across the Island until it was conveyed to the mainland’.

News of the recovery was widespread. In the following days The New York Times noted that the body ‘came ashore on the beach of Eddy Island, Galway Bay’. Many reports referred to the location as ‘the islands of Doolin and Aran’.

Condolences from royalty and Roosevelt

The body of Bates was repatriated on the American liner, St. Paul from Liverpool, arriving in New York on 8th August, 1915. A service was held the following day at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian church where hundreds attended. Condolences were sent by King Albert of Belgium and the former president of the US, Theodore Roosevelt.

Many prominent figures from political, business and academic circles spoke. Lou Henry Hoover, the future First Lady of the US and wife of Henry Hoover, told mourners how in the final heroic moments of Lindon Bates Jr.’s life, he gave his life jacket to a frightened female passenger and delayed his own escape to look for the missing children of his friends, Mr. and Mrs. Warren Pearl.

This information had been obtained by her husband’s contacts in Queenstown. A private burial followed the memorial service at Mount Lebanon, N.Y. on the family estate.

In February, 1916 the New York Herald reported that the Bates family intended to erect a 115 foot monument at the burial site, to commemorate their son and all those who perished with the Lusitania. Drawings for the obelisk replicate Pompey’s Pillar in Alexandria, Egypt. However, it was never built.

Lindon’s father invested much of his time and fortune into researching ship camouflage. Both he and his wife subsequently suffered ill-health and the family engineering company eventually closed down. Later, his brother, Lindell, a lawyer, diplomat and engineer served as secretary to the Submarine Defence Association during World War 1.

Maths formula

He developed the math formulas for a ship at sea to perform zigzag manoeuvres to better outwit lurking submarines. He also worked on an efficient formula for coal dust to be mixed with fuel oil to be burned in a ship’s furnace that left the smokestack with less visible smoke compared to using regular coal as a fuel.

Lindell Bates later bequeathed the family land to the state where it was renamed Bates Memorial State Park. Today, the small graveyard is fenced off.

It contains only a few headstones, those of Lindon Sr., his wife, Josephine, son Lindell and his sister Mary Wallace Bates, alongside a six foot tall cross which marks the grave of Lindon Bates Jr. The inscription reads ‘Le vrai caractere perce toujours dans le grandes circonstances’ - True character always shows through in great circumstances.

In November 2015 the Lindon Bates Jr. Collection was opened to the public at the Hoover Archives at Stanford University, US. It includes telegrams between Hoover and the Bates family, along with newspaper clippings about the Lusitania tragedy.

While there is no reference to Island Eddy in the online collection, much of the information has yet to be digitised and may include references to the island and the man who found the body of Lindon Bates Jr., Mr. John Conlon.

If anyone has any further information on this story, please email [email protected].


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