On the 7th May 1915, the British ocean liner, RMS Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine (or U-boat) causing the deaths of 1,198 passengers and crew. Holder of the Blue Riband (an award given to a ship with the record for a transatlantic crossing) and briefly, the world's largest passenger ship, she was launched by the Cunard Line in 1906. She had made 101 round-trip voyages (or 202 crossings) during her 7-year-and-9-month career and was on what would be her final voyage.
The Lusitania departed New York for Liverpool and on the afternoon of the 7th of May 1915, she was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland, about 11 miles south of the Old Head of Kinsale.
She sank in about18 minutes. Of the known 1,960 people on board, 767 survived and 1,194 perished in the Lusitania disaster. Four of those survivors died in the following months, bringing the numbers to 762 survivors and 1,198 victims.
The sinking caused a storm of protest in the United States, as 128 Americans were among the dead and this event helped shift public opinion in the United States against Germany and influenced their declaration of war two years later.
From records, there appears to have been thirteen victims and eight survivors from County Mayo. From the Castlebar area, there were seven crew members who died:
1. Patrick Browne, Aged 24, Coal Trimmer from Kilboyne, Ballyheane
2. Patrick Coyne, Aged 24, Coal Trimmer from Buncam, Ballyheane
3. Patrick Hopkins, Aged 25, Fireman from Tawnyshane, Castlebar. The son of Patrick and Ellen Hopkins. As his body was not recovered and identified afterwards, he is commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing at Tower Hill, London.
4. Patrick Campbell, Aged 35, Fireman, Born in Fisherhill, Turlough - lived in Newry, Co. Down.
5. Thomas Kearney, Aged 25, Fireman from Tawnyshane, Castlebar
6. Jeremiah Sweeney, Aged 23, Fireman from Cloontubrid, Turlough, Castlebar. The son of Patrick and Ellen Sweeney, his body was not recovered and identified afterwards, so he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, London.
7. Patrick Kearney (Carney) from Crimlin, Castlebar
One crew member survived:
8. James Moran, Aged 24, Fireman from Errew, Castlebar. He was working on the dockyards of Liverpool, when he joined the crew. He later gave an account of the night of the sinking to local newspapers. He died in 1966.
NB: A coal trimmer is a position within the engineering department of a coal fired ship which involves all coal handling tasks starting with the loading of coal into the ship and ending with the delivery of the coal to the stoker.