Mr David Gass was born in Belfast, Ireland sometime between 1861 and 1865.1 Coming from a Church of Ireland family, he was the son of William Gass, a farmer.
Gass, described as a sailor and who was only semi-literate, was married in Belfast on 4 November 1882 to Mary Ann McBride (b. circa 1856). Whilst residents of a Belfast workhouse, a stillborn son arrived in September 1883. Sons Hugh (b. April 1887) and William (b. May 1889) arrived later, followed by George in 1900 and Anne in 1903. The family appears on the 1901 census living at 28 Rathcoole Street in south Belfast.
David became a widower when his wife Mary Ann died 23 August 1908 following an acute asthmatic attack. Their address at the time was 31 Ferndale Avenue.
Gass was remarried in Lisburn Road Methodist Church on 10 April 1909 to Scots-born Mary Neill (b. circa 1882), the daughter of a crane-driver. They appeared on the 1911 census as residents of 6 Convention Street in east Belfast and later went on to have three sons: James (b. August 1912), Andrew (b. December 1913) and David (b. March 1915). Andrew died from measles in April 1915.
Gass’ ship prior to Titanic had been the Kathleen. He joined Titanic at Belfast for the delivery trip to Southampton where he then disembarked.
In April 1913 Gass was assaulted by fellow delivery trip crewman Hugh Whinnery and another man, as reported by Belfast Newsletter (11 April 1913).
A ROW AMONGST LABOURERS
A Queen's Quay Incident.
In the Belfast Custody Court yesterday—before Messrs. Garrett Nagle. R.M., and William Wright—Hugh Whinnery, 69. Sheriff Street, and John Cobain, 9, Ardilaun Street, were charged on remand with assaulting David Gass.
Mr. D. F. Spiller prosecuted, and Mr. N. Turghan represented the defendants.
Sergeant Anderson gave evidence of arrest.
When cautioned, Whinnery said, "That man struck me in Crealy’s public-house. I have witnesses to prove that.” Cobain said. The man struck me. He was fighting with another man at the corner of the bar.”
David Gass, 20. Convention Street, said that for the past two years he had been the employment of John Milligen & Co., Limited, and on the sth April was working on the steamship Evelyn together with 19 other men discharging coal. Shortly after three p.m. a man met witness on the Queen’s Quay and asked him was he going to join the Irish Transport Union. Witness refused, and went on the boat and commenced his work. About four o’clock the same man and another came to the boat and ordered all the union men out the boat. Thirteen of the men left, including the two defendants. Witness knocked off work about six o’clock, and went over to Crealy’s public house for a drink. The 13 men who stopped work were there. As soon as witness went in Whinnery came up to him, and, without speaking, struck him a violent blow on the mouth and knocked him down. As he tried to get up Cobain struck him on the face and kicked him.
To Mr. Tughan—During the time witness and the other six men were working on the boat there was no interference. It would not be true to say that witness went into the public house and said would allow no union to interfere with him, nor that he struck the two prisoners first. Witness’s clothes and shirt were torn by the treatment he received.
For the defence, Joseph Meehan, dock labourer, said that he was in Crealy’s public-house when Gass came in with bis coat off. The first thing he said was that would be ruled by no organisation, and he used very nasty expressions. Next, without any provocation, he went up and, struck Cobain, knocking him down. The two men began to struggle, and fell to the ground. Whinnery never moved from the counter, and did not interfere in the slightest.
Mr. Spiller—He saw nobody attack Gass.
To Mr. Nagle—Gass said would be ruled by no Home Rule society.
Thomas Leonard also gave evidence to the effect that Gass had been the real aggressor.
The latter said he would not join any union, and that the only union would join would be the Union Jack.
Bernard Fee corroborated.
The case was adjourned for fortnight, prisoners being admitted bail. - Belfast Newsletter, 11 April 1913
Public house Scene.
Hugh Whinnery and John Cobain were charged with assaulting David Gass, a labourer, on the 5th inst. The complainant stated that be went into a public-house in Station Street, when Whinnery knocked him down, and as he was getting on to his feet again the other prisoner, Cobain, also struck him. Constable Boyd, to whom Gass made his complaint, said he (the complainant) did not at that time bear any trace of having been assaulted. The prisoners were bound over on their own recognisances to keep the peace for twelve months. - Belfast Newsletter, 25 April 1913
David Gass continued working at sea as a stoker for several years after the Titanic. He remained in Belfast and his last address was 17 Marlborough Avenue. He died on 10 May 1931; his widow Mary died in March 1963 and they are buried together in City Cemetery (plot D1 180).