Hugh to Herbert McElroy

Hello everyone,

I was wondering about Purser McElroy. In most Titanic related information it states his name as Herbert W. McElroy. But apparently his real name was Hugh.

I want to know why this change of name has come about. Did McElroy change it at one point in his life or is this an ongoing mistake made by everyone?

I have had one theory for a while but have no backing for it. McElroy was born and raised in Liverpool but his family hailed from County Wexford, Ireland. Perhaps to cover up his Irish background in order to proceed successfully in England he altered it from the blatantly Irish "Hugh" to "Herbert". Being of Irish heritage myself, I have heard many stories about Irish men and women having to travel to England in order to find work and having to change their names to be accepted. My own great-granddad was from Donegal but in his teens had to travel to Scotland where he worked in a leather factory and sent the money back home to the Sweeney family.

So, any further insight on this?
I'm not aware of any instance of McElroy personally going by the name "Herbert." My guess is that the erroneous "Herbert" title came from Walter Lord when he wrote "A Night to Remember," and that inaccuracy was simply repeated in works that followed.
Ah, perhaps that is the reason. . . .

I'll have to check "The Loss of the S.S. Titanic" by Lawrence Beesley and "The Truth About The Titanic" by Col. Archibald Gracie though. Maybe the error began in even earlier texts.
It was more common in those days to refer to people by their initials, and it's likely that many White Star officials knew the man only as 'H W McElroy' and had no idea what his first name was. When his body was recovered and listed back in 1912 somebody made the mistake of thinking or assuming that the H stood for Herbert. In many listings he's been 'Herbert' ever since.
Shea, Hope this helps, taken from my research papers, (Iv'e posted them on 2nd).

Body No 157 was tentatively identified by Research Group 1991. Description: male; estimated age 32; dark hair; Clothing: ship’s uniform; white jacket; ship’s keys; 10 pence; 50 cents; they also found his beloved fountain pen. The body was not immediately identified as Hugh McElroy, (but was recorded as Herbert?) this was a mistake made at the coroners court in Halifax, when his effects were checked and identified by Mr Percy Mitchell who signed a declaration and certified the name of the deceased person as Herbert McElroy, Purser, Titanic; but as he was dressed in ships uniform and wearing a white officer’s dinner jacket, when he was found, they investigated further and they found out who he was, but because of the mistake made in the coroners court by Mr Percy Mitchell, giving him the name of “Herbert” this would in a way, haunt Hugh right up to the present day, a thing I have given up trying to rectify, on the many web sites on the internet.

While the transcribed entry for body 157 on this site would lead one to believe that the name "Herbert W. McElroy" was written in the description, the actual body description does not attribute a name to this body. Number 157 was still unidentified at the time.

The individual who transcribed the body descriptions for E.T. appears to have taken liberties in that respect and indicated names for some bodies which were unidentified in 1912 but have since been identified. Since "Herbert" had long been thought to be McElroy's given name, that's the name the modern-day transcriber seems to have used.
Hello Chris,

Actually, while I am credited solely with the transcription, there were a group of people involved and helping with the lists that should be credited as well - I believe you were one of them.

When the list was worked up in the late 90's it was based on information put together at that time and was not intended to be a verbatim copy of the original list.

Hopefully this ends any confusion about the list here on ET.

My apologies Rob,
My critical opinion was offered with no one particular in mind as being the cited "individual" and should have been worded differently. It was meant to imply inaccuracies rather than to personally attack. My apologies also to anyone else whom I may have offended.
Now Hugh's book "Death of a Purser" has at last been published, Nov 2011. I have accepted both of your apologies, and by the way Hugh McElroy's given name was not "Herbert" it was "Mac" same as mine.

Jim Currie

Just a point.

I am curious about the 'white officer's dinner jacket'. To me this is strange.(apart from the bad grammer).
Did Pursers sit at table with passengers in 1912? Did they wear white dinner jackets (mess-dress) in spring?

I know for an absolute fact that in later years, dinner mess-dress jacket was normally the same colour as day dress uniform. White mess jackets were normally worn in summer or in the tropics. Waiters and stewards wore white bum-freezer jackets in the saloons and black or navy blue ones on deck. They also wore balck bow ties.

During the abandon ship operation, Purser McIlroy was extremely active on the starboard side of the boat deck. he was one of the real heros. He was there from the time the second boat was launched and Lightoller met him on the boat deck shortly before the ship went down. At that time, he and his asistant had collected the ship's papers and any othe important paper work and had stowed it in the ship's bag.

Is it conceivable that in such freezing cold conditions and for over 2 hours, the man was wearing a light mess jacket? Or that just before the ship sank he took off his lifejacket and warm overcoat? What happened to the ship's bag?

Jim C.


Now Hugh's book "Death of a Purser" has at last been published, Nov 2011. I have accepted both of your apologies, and by the way Hugh McElroy's given name was not "Herbert" it was "Mac" same as mine.

We lost contact and I did not know your book had been published till I read this last week so have only just got a copy :)