The story of Francis Young and William Duffy from Castlebar who were crew onboard The Titanic
The old County Jail for Mayo was in Castlebar. The chance of employment in the Jail brought many people from far afield to Castlebar. One family that came to town was that of William and Emily Young. They came to Castlebar from Dublin City about 120 years ago in late 1888 or 1889. William Young himself originally hailed from Co. Tipperary. He was just one year older than his wife Emily who in turn came from Limerick City. They were married in 1878 when they were about 23 and 24 years of age respectively. By the time they and their family set up home in Ellison Street 11 years later, they were both in their mid-thirties.
William and Emily’s home was located on the Post Office side of Burleigh House which was the then residence of Dr M. J. De Exeter Jordan. Shortly after their arrival in the town William Young went to work as a warder or turnkey in the County jail. Their children at the time were, John aged 10, Francis aged 7, Mabel aged 4 and William aged 2. They children were Church of Ireland like their parents. The older children possibly had Dublin accents when they arrived in the town. They would have run across the Green in the mornings to their school, which was located on the site of the present headquarters of the Mayo County Library.
William and Emily’s son Frederick was the first of their children to be born in Castlebar in 1889, and over the next nine years they had a further three children Edward, Albert and finally Ethel in who was born in 1898. In later years John Young joined the Connaught Rangers Regiment while his younger brother Francis went to sea. Incidentally, at that time they were not the only family living in Ellison Street with the surname Young. The retired governor of the Jail, Davis Robert Young a widower, was also a resident living down the street.
Francis Young served on board the Orotova before securing a job as a fireman on-board the Titanic. The Orotova was in service with the Pacific Steam Navigation Co. from 1890 until 1906 where it plied a route from Liverpool to Australia through the Suez Canal. The ship was acquired in 1906 by the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. The RMS Orotova was then placed in the West Indies service from 1906 until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.
Francis James Young was born in 1882 and was 30 years of age in 1912 when he boarded the RMS Titanic. He was married and had an address at 28 Russell St. Southampton. He must have been excited with his new position as he joined the Titanic on its maiden voyage at Southampton. His job on-board was as a fireman stoker which paid £6 per month. This was however no easy work. The Titanic was a steam ship and images of a Captain pulling on a lever while saying “full steam ahead” bear no relation to the reality in the boiler rooms. Down there in the bowels of the ship men in their underclothes were continually shovelling coal into glowing furnaces in temperatures up to 120F. Due to the exhausting nature of the work for the men, rotas were organised into shifts of four hours on, and eight hours off. The Titanic had 6 boiler rooms containing 29 boilers which were fed by 159 furnaces. These boiler rooms were staffed by 13 Stoker Foremen and 163 Firemen Stokers. These firemen had to keep the boilers under steam by shovelling coal almost non stop into each furnace. Each Stoker Foreman was in charge of two boiler rooms and had up to 15 firemen assigned to feed the furnaces. Each fireman had to shovel coal into three separate furnaces. The coal was deposited beside them from overhead chutes, located in the bunkers.
We have no account of Francis Young’s exact work rota on the voyage, but as a fireman stoker we can place him in context of the events that took place. The initial stage of the Titanic’s voyage was at least for the firemen very hard work. There are various accounts of a fire which started in coal bunker no 6 where the iceberg later struck. This fire was fought by the firemen as the ship made its way across the Atlantic. Two stokers from each shift which totalled twelve men in all were assigned to deal with the fire on an ongoing basis. Other men were set the task of emptying the coal out of the coal bunkers in sections two and three on the forward starboard side of the ship. The coal while it was in these bunkers acted as a buttress to the ships bulkheads. The emptying of coal from these bunkers is said to have played an important role in the failure of the bulkheads when the iceberg tore the side of the ship and allowed the ocean water to pour in. Of the men working in the boiler rooms only 48 firemen survived, Francis James Young was not one of them. At home in Castlebar at the time the three youngest members of Francis family were still living with their parents. The 1911 census tells how Edward was apprenticed to a local Watchmaker while Albert was a temporary clerk (County Council?) and Ethel was still at school.
Francis Young was in the company of another Castlebar man in the Engineering section of the Titanic. Senan Molony in his book The Irish aboard the Titanic identifies him as William Luke Duffy. Duffy was the Chief Engineer's Clerk on-board the Titanic and was originally from Main Street in Castlebar. William Duffy’s story begins with John Duffy and Ellen Ward who were married in Castlebar on the 28th of December 1870. They set up home on the Main Street and over the next eight years they had three children who were all born there. Their first child Mary was baptised in the old Barn Church on Chapel St. on 30th September 1871. The next child, William Luke, was baptised on the 8th of October 1875 and finally Patrick Joseph was baptised on the 2nd of December 1878. It is also worth pointing out that there is no parochial record of another William Duffy born in Castlebar at this period. The Duffy family also seem to no longer have lived on Main St by the turn of the century as they do not appear in the census records there for either years 1901 or 1911.William Duffy was educated at St. Jarlath`s College, Tuam, Co. Galway. Unfortunately their records do not cover the period. When William finished his education he went to work in Dublin. The 1901 census identifies the 25 year old as living at 11 Stamer St, West Side Wood Quay Dublin. He was living there with his Aunt Mary Ward who was his mother’s sister. She is listed as an unmarried fifty year old Mayo woman. Mary Ward was a retired draper and she ran a boarding house at that address. His brother Patrick Joseph Duffy was also recorded as living there at that time. He worked as a clerk in a drapery business. His age is incorrectly given as 23 but his 23rd birthday would not have been until that coming December. William Luke Duffy is listed as a clerk in a bakery. His age however is listed as 22 when he was in fact 25. William Duffy initially spent a couple of years in a clerical capacity with Shackleton's Flour Milling Company; from there he later went to work for James Walker & Company also in Dublin.
Mary Ward later moved house to No. 103 Lower Baggot St in Dublin. William also moved and resided with her for a time at that address. The 1911 census gives her age at that time as 61 and her place of birth as Castlebar Co. Mayo. On the night of the census only her maid and her cook were resident with her in her boarding house. She signed the form Marianne Ward. William Duffy's sister Mary, owned No.98 a few doors down the street and she also took in boarders. Their brother Patrick lived with her at that address. Patrick's job in 1911 was recorded as a commercial clerk. The 1911 census also records their place of birth as Castlebar Co. Mayo. Their real ages again don't tally with the census records. This is quite common for any number of reasons in the census records. People may not actually have known their date of birth or may have been wary of giving information in official documents. Patrick Duffy is listed as 30 years of age when he would have been in reality 32 years old. He had aged only seven years in the decade between the two census! Mary was getting younger. Her age is given as 31 when she was actually 40.
William by this time was married to his wife Ethel and they were living in England. The 1911 census gives the address of the Duffys as South Stoneham in Southampton. Their only child Mary is recorded as 0 years of age so she was born between 1910 and 1911. William Duffy signed up as the Chief Engineer's Clerk on the Titanic. This was a job known as a writer. He earned £6 per month the same as Francis Young. William Duffy joined the ship from Southampton, at Belfast, on the second of April 1912. He gave his age as 28 instead of 35. Senan Molony in his book The Irish aboard the Titanic gives his age as 29. This error in age however is consistent with the incorrect ages given by the family in the census records. This was Williams first time working on a ship. He gave his address as 11 Garton Rd, Itchen, Southampton, Hampshire. Following the sinking of the Titanic, The Mansion House Titanic Relief Fund Booklet for March 1913 details his widow as Ethel, his daughter Mary and also his Aunt Marian Ward as class D dependants in the Southampton area. While his Aunt went by the name Mary she also signed the 1911 census as Marianne. She may have travelled to Southampton following the disaster to help Williams’s wife and child. The following year the same fund details that Ethel had her grant of two shillings a week extended until April 30th 1914 to help feed her sick child.
The Connaught Telegraph of April 20th 1912 reports that Mr Thomas Durcan a local agent for The White Star Line had immediately wired Liverpool for news about the sinking of the Titanic. The article also list the unfortunate passengers booked by both himself and Mrs Walsh of Linnenhall St. All those passengers were from the Lahardane area of Co. Mayo. The next edition of the paper dated 27th of April details how the Castlebar Board of Guardians passed a resolution sympathising with the bereaved families worldwide, “especially to those in County Mayo and Castlebar Union.” It does not mention the two Castlebar men or their families specifically. While there was no immediate confirmation of their deaths, (similar to the confirmation of passenger deaths), it must have been felt locally that the two men had perished. The news of the sinking of the Titanic must have devastated the Young and Duffy families as they waited in vain for daily news of survivors from the sinking of the Ocean Liner. It is probable that both Duffy and Young having had position as ships crew and not as passengers meant that their being on board was not a certainty. Passengers were well recorded boarding the ship and by local agents who could detail those who had bought tickets. Passengers were also recorded at Cobh and their family also knew that they had departed for that particular ship. Family may not have been as certain which ships Young and Duffy were working on. They would have to await confirmation from the Ships Owners to make sure particular crew were on-board. Also having addresses at Southampton initially masked their Castlebar origins. Further tragedy was to befall the Young family shortly after the sinking of the Titanic. At the Curragh Military Camp some day’s after the tragedy Francis oldest brother John died while serving with the Connaught Rangers. The inquest was reported on the 18th of May in both the Connaught Telegraph and Western People. The report also states that John Young feared that his brother had perished and that he did not know for certain that Francis had died.
The tragic deaths of Francis Young and William Duffy brought a great sense of loss to all those people who knew them particularly their relatives and those people in Ellison St and Main St. and the wider area. Duffy is remembered by several engineering society memorials in Britain. He is named on the Southampton Engineers Memorial, East Park, Southampton and he has a Memorial brick in his name in the Woolston, Southampton, Millennium Garden in Victoria Road Woolston - which opened in April 2002. He is remembered on the Glasgow Institute of Marine Engineers memorial, on the London Institute of Marine Engineers memorial, and on the Liverpool Titanic and Engineers memorial.
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Added to Encyclopedia Titanica Thursday 16th June 2011, last updated Tuesday 22nd July 2014.