Lusitania families’ event

8 November 2013 by Ellie

RMS Lusitania at the Liverpool Landing Stage in 1907

MCR/25/117 Image courtesy of NML, image not copyright NML.

At this time of year we pause to remember the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two World Wars and later conflicts.

With that in mind, Merseyside Maritime Museum is continuing to work towards marking the centenary of the sinking of Liverpool’s most famous ship, ‘RMS Lusitania’, in 2015.

On the 7 May 1915, while en route to Liverpool, ‘Lusitania’ was torpedoed by the German U-boat U-20 off the Irish coast near the Old Head of Kinsale. She sank in just 18 minutes, and 1198 men, women and children perished. The sinking sent shockwaves around the world, but her loss was felt particularly keenly in Liverpool – where rioting broke out against German-owned businesses.  A large number of the crew had strong connections to the city and many families were devastated by the event. “Lusi”, as she was affectionately known in the city, was held high regard by local people and had been a familiar site at the Landing Stage since her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York in September 1907.

Each year Merseyside Maritime Museum marks the anniversary with a commemoration around our ‘Lusitania’ propeller, on the quayside across from the museum. Many of those who join us have family connections to those who were on board, and this year we met with people after the event to listen to their stories.

Lusitania propeller on the museum quayside


On Friday 15th November we are hosting a follow-up event, and are hoping to see some familiar faces but also make new connections with local people who have family ties to ‘Lusitania’. If you, or someone you know, would like to come along then head for Learning Base 2, on the second floor of the museum, from 2pm.

If you would like more information then please email us at

  1. Hector Lara says:

    Passenger Frank Stark Pearson died in the Lusitania, he was Mexico City tram system owner among other companies, I work for the Mexico tram museum and am assembling an Airfix Lusitania for display. Am subscribed to you via facebook.

    • Ellie Moffat says:

      Hello Hector, many thanks for getting in touch. This is a link I was unaware of so thank you for the information. Please do send an image of your model once it’s complete.

  2. Mary Jolivet says:

    Hi. My Great Aunt, Rita Jolivet, as well as my grandmother(then Beatrice Witherbee, as well as her mother, Mae Cummins, and Rita’s sister’s (Inez) husband, George Vernon were all on board Lusi, when she went down. My Great Aunt Rita survived, as well as my Grandmother Beatrice. She lost her young son. Scott Witherbee in the tragedy, and he is buried in Cobh. Could you please give me more information in Cenitary events, happening in 2015? Thank you so much,
    Mary Jolivet.

  3. Barbara Cotton says:

    Hi Mike, Both my sister and I are coming on the 15th. looking forward to it. Will bring anything we have.
    Kind Regards
    Barbara Cotton & Carol Nuttall

  4. Mr Percy James Walker says:

    My Grandfather Sailed on the Lusitania up to 1914 . 20 May 1911 / 11 September 1911/ 7th October 1911 /
    28th October 1911 / 18th November 1911 / 21st March 1914 / 19th May 1914 / then volunteed for the the army
    and was killed in France in 1915 his body was never found . His name was Percy James Walker the same as me
    may he rest in peace. i have his log book of all his voyages and dates i will be going to the event on Friday .
    Mr Percy James Walker Jr,

    • Ellie Moffat says:

      Hello Mr Walker, many thanks for getting in touch with us about your grandfather’s connection. I’m looking forward to seeing you at the event.

  5. christina afflick says:

    My grandfather Thomas Laffey was a firestoker on board Lusitania, he died aged 26yrs leaving a wife Bridget and 3 daughters aged 4yrs, 2 yrs and my mother aged 5 months. My mother died 7 yrs ago aged 91yrs never knowing her father. My nin had a hard life raising 3 children alone but never remarried as she had “lost the only husband she had ever wanted”. There was no social security in those days and my nin and girls were “taken in” by her sister and would have been destitute if not for her.
    Please keep me informed as to the centenary events planned over the coming 18 months.

    • Ellie Moffat says:

      Hello Christina, thank you so much for sharing your story. The loss of your grandfather was obviously felt very deeply by your grandmother for the rest of her life. It is tragic to think of your mother and her sisters growing up without their father.
      I have sent you an email about possibly meeting up at another time as I know that you are unable to attend the event this Friday.

  6. Jean Richards Timmermeister says:

    I, too, wish I could be there this week.

    Four of five of my Richards family survived and I was able to meet Cecil Richards as well as the widow of Percy Richards before their respective deaths in Breage,Cornwall, England.

    I wish you all the best for the event. Thank you for remembering and reminding the world of the Lusitania.

    Jean Richards Timmermeister

    • Ellie Moffat says:

      Hello Jean,
      Thank you for getting in touch. I’m sorry you weren’t able to attend this time, but we are planning future events so will keep you informed of anything. If you would like to stay in touch then do email me at
      Many thanks,

  7. Lawrence O'Toole says:

    My Grandfather was a 2nd cook on board the Lucitainia when it was sunk. He was 15 years old! I have a story of his rescue if anyone is interested.

  8. Lawrence O'Toole says:

    Sorry, I should have added his name, David McClelland

    • Ellie Moffat says:

      Hello Lawrence,
      Thank you for contacting us. I would very much like to hear more about your grandfather’s rescue. If you email me at then we can arrange to meet up. He was reported amongst the survivors in the Liverpool Echo on Monday 10 May, on p.8, and his name was wrongly printed as “McLellen”.
      Best wishes,

  9. John connell says:

    Hi , my grandfather Thomas mcaleavey survived the sinking if the Lusitania , he was 18 years old & a fireman on board. We still have his ships book marked discharged due to sinking of Lusitania .

    • Ellie Moffat says:

      Hello John,
      Many thanks for leaving your details. I would very much like to know more about your grandfather if you would care to contact me at He was also listed amongst the survivors in the Echo on Monday 10 May 1915, p.8. and had been hospitalised.
      I look forward to hearing from you soon.
      Best wishes,

  10. madeline escalante says:

    I did not know about the events happening today until I seen North West Tonight. My Grandfather Bernard Mcguinness worked as a trimmer, thankfully he survived.

    • Ellie Moffat says:

      Hello Madeline,
      I’m sorry that you didn’t hear about our event in time to attend, but we can make sure that you are informed of future events. If you could email me at, then I would be pleased to stay in touch and grateful to know more of your Grandfather’s story.
      Many thanks,

  11. Andrea Phillips says:

    My grandfather was William Mitchell and was Linen Steward on the Lusitania.I am told he cut down one of the lifeboats when it was stuck. He was rescued, but died approx a year later from pneumonia, before my mother was born. I have an interview and photo printed in the Liverpool paper, at the time, which I have forwarded along with postcards etc to the Maritime Museum. I would love to attend one year to remember a grandfather I, and my mother and her sister, never met. My mothers mother died of the Spanish flu a few years later.

    • Ellie Moffat says:

      Hello Andrea,
      Many thanks for sharing your family’s story with us. Please can you email me directly at and I can find out more about the material you are sending to the museum. I hope to hear from you soon.
      Kind regards,

  12. Terry Molloy says:

    My grandfather, John Sharkey, a Sligo Irishman, was a crew member (Electricians mate) on the Lusitania. He survived and would regale his grandchildren with tales of how he survived. When the torpedo struck he was quite close to the open deck and was able to make his way outside, once there the ship began to list very badly, making the use of the life boats virtually impossible. He couldn’t swim so he decided to accept his fate and go down with the ship. However as his part of the ship was submerging some kind of fracture occurred and he was thrown outwards, miraculously landing near a lifeboat where he was dragged aboard. His enduring memory of his period in the lifeboat was the heart rending sight of the bodies of babies floating in the water. Our grandmother was told by neighbours of the sinking and immediately made her way to the Cunard building at the Pier Head where details of known survivors were being pinned to the external railings. For many hours she waited but no news of her husband came through and it wasn’t until the following day that she learned of his miraculous escape. John died in 1964 aged 82.

    • Ellie Moffat says:

      Hello Terry,
      Thank you so much for sharing your Grandfather’s story with us. I met with a member of your family at the event on Friday and so I had heard about his survival against the odds, being a non-swimmer. I would very much like to stay in touch with you and so when you have a moment please do email me at
      Many thanks,

  13. Debbie Maher says:

    Hello Ellie, My great grandfather John Kennedy was a Stoker on board the Lusitania. Unfortunately he did not survive, and his body was never recovered. His wife Catherine, was left to bring up 3 children (2 boys) and my Nan (Annie, aged 6 months.) We have over the years attended many services outside the Museum, and have toyed with the idea of visiting Kinsale for the Centenary next year.

    Sorry we missed Fridays Event, had we known about it, both my mother and I would have been delighted to attend/ share our memories with you. We look forward to any further meetings, and are pleased to hear plans are underway to mark the centenary.

    • Ellie Moffat says:

      Hello Debbie,
      Thank for taking the time to contact us regarding your great grandfather John Kennedy. I’m pleased to hear that you attend our commemoration and look forward to seeing you. If you can email me at then I will ensure you and your mother are on our contact list for future events.
      Best wishes,

  14. Catharine Smith (nee O'Neill) says:

    My great uncle, my granddad’s brother Michael O’Neill from Wexford was one of the crew that died on the Lucitania. I was not able to attend the commemoration due to illness but if there are any more events in the future I would like to go to them.

  15. Gerry Myles says:


    My uncle Peter Myles was a trimmer on the ill fated Lusitania ,he was 17 years of age at the time of his going down with the liner. There have been many theory’s put forward concerning the sinking of the Lusitania . but as usual the truth is always the first victim in any conflict.

    Keep up your excellent work honouring the seafarers that perished in 1915 it is right and proper that future generations are presented with history and the sacrifice made by the people.


    Gerry Myles/ Secretary LRMS

  16. Hilda Woodley says:

    My great Uncle Alfred Gardner was a Trimmer on the Lusitania, he married Margaret McKevitt at St Paul’s North Shore on 9th March and went down with the ship 2 months later, his body was never recovered, he was 21 years old. He is remembered at the Tower Hill Memorial in London along with others of the Merchant Navy.

    I was born in Crosby but live in South Africa and sadly I am unable to visit your wonderful Museum so thank you for keeping the memories alive of all those brave young men who were only doing their job and should not have been at risk.

    • Dickie says:

      Thanks for sharing your family story with us Hilda. It’s tragic that your great uncle was lost – and so soon after he was just starting married life. Thank you very much for sharing your family connection to the Lusitania. I would be very happy to add you to our family contacts – if you could email me separately at that would be great.

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