Mr George Francis "Paddy" McGough was born in Duncannon, Co Wexford, Ireland, reportedly on 4 July 1875.1 There is no record of his birth and details about his parents and any siblings he may have had remain unknown.
Possibly hailing from a seafaring family, McGough went to sea at a young age. In March 1900 he was charged with the murder of a shipmate aboard the collier Rustington, then berthed at the port of Santos in São Paulo, Brazil. After a night out drinking, he had returned to his ship and challenged his shipmates to a fight; a fireman named John Dwyer tried to persuade McGough to return to his bunk but McGough instead butted him in the stomach and tipped him into an open hold. Dwyer fell 20 feet and was found bleeding profusely, dying shortly after.
PERSON IN CUSTODY
Hampshire - Committed for trial at next Hampshire assizes for murder on board ship – GEORGE FRANCIS MCGOUGH, age 25, height 5'4", complexion fresh, hair light brown, eyes blue, cut scar right side of head, American coat of arms on left forearm, bust of woman in centre of bracelet both wrists, star between left thumb and forefinger, anchor back left hand, woman and basket of flowers right arm, Eagle and anchor right forearm, anchor between right thumb and forefinger, star on both shoulders and insteps, 10 scars on left leg, 3 on right; dress, black diagonal coat, blue serge vest and trousers, Black cloth peak cap, lace boots. An Able seaman; native of Duncannon, Wexford. Information to the chief constable, Southampton. — The Police Gazette, 4 May 1900
At the Hampshire Assize on 2 July 1900 he was cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter on the high seas and sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment with hard labour.
It was while detained at His majesty's pleasure at Winchester Prison that George McGough was recorded on the night of the 1901 census. After his release, he resumed his seagoing career but in October 1910 he was convicted for the sexual assault on 2 August 1910 of a twelve-year-old girl named Lilly Beatrice Harper and sentenced to 3 months' hard labour.
By the time of the 1911 census McGough was living at 8 St George's Street and listed with him were Beatrice Gannaway, a servant, and a friend named Jeremiah Donoon, a marine fireman. Early the following year he would marry Miss Gannaway. Beatrice Nellie Gannaway (b. 6 November 1885) was a native of Southampton and was the daughter of dock stevedore John Gannaway and the former Eliza Daniels. Her niece was Lilly Beatrice Harper, the girl that Paddy had been convicted of assaulting just over a year before.
When he signed on to the Titanic on 6 April 1912, McGough gave his address as 15 St George's Street, Southampton; he stated his age as 25 when in fact he was in his 30s. As an able seaman, he could expect monthly wages of £5.
McGough was rescued in lifeboat 9 and took charge of the tiller. Second class passenger Bertha Watt recalled:
The fellow at the tiller was an Irishman. Paddy had no authority, he was just a deckhand. He was wonderful, telling me about the stars.
When Bertha thought she saw land, he explained that what she could see was an icefield.
Nearby, first class passenger Mrs Lily May Futrelle complained that the man near her had entered the boat under false pretences, claiming he could row, when he could not. McGough told her, “Madame, he wants to save his life as much as you do yours.” At dawn, the sight of the Carpathia steaming towards the survivors raised everyone’s spirits, and McGough exclaimed, “Let us pray to God, for there is a ship on the horizon and it’s making for us.”
McGough returned to England aboard the Lapland with other crew. He was not called as a witness to either the US or British inquiries into the sinking but did give brief interviews to the media at the time.
Patrick McGough [ic], an Irish seaman, said that no one was killed by the collision. “When I left the Titanic,” he said, “She was down to below the forecastle. I saw her back break, and I heard an explosion either of her main steam pipe or of the boilers. I last saw Mr Murdoch (first officer) when he was lowering No. 15 boat and keeping back some Italians. From the boat deck I distinctly saw Captain Smith at some distance swimming towards another boat. When they reached out to help him he shouted to them, ‘Look after yourselves men. Don’t mind me. God bless you.’ The he threw up his hands and disappeared.” — Oxfordshire Weekly News, 1 May 1912
McGough would later serve as a crewman aboard the Lapland, as well as throughout his long career the Llanstephan Castle, Briton, Tagus, Minnekahda, Fort St. George, Oropesa and Corbis.
In October 1915 McGough, then a resident of Oriental Terrace, Southampton, was sentenced to 14 days’ hard labour on account of a drunken altercation with some Greek seamen.
Paddy and his wife Nellie had no children together and it would appear that they spent much of their later lives living separately. Paddy did become a father, however, when in 1920 his daughter Eileen Beatrice was welcomed; the child’s mother was Southampton-teenager Agnes Fanny Harper (b. 21 October 1903-d. 1981), his wife Beatrice’s niece2 and the sister of Lilly Beatrice Harper who McGough had assaulted in October 1910.
Agnes Fanny Harper later married Frederick Watts in 1933, with who she had a further two children; the family were listed on the 1939 register at Castle Cottage, Porter’s Lane, Southampton, the home address of Paddy McGough’s wife Beatrice. The nature of this arrangement remains ambiguous.
Beatrice McGough remained in Southampton where she died in 1965. Paddy remained at sea for much of his life and by 1939 was a lodger in a seaman’s home in West Ham, Essex and he apparently remained a resident of that county until his death.
George Francis “Paddy” McGough died at the Essex County Hospital in Wanstead (modern-day Wanstead Hospital) on 6 May 1940 and he was buried in Chingford Mount Cemetery, Essex (now Greater London, section G13, C/R 36420) on 14 May.
His daughter Eileen married in 1939 to Wilfred “William” Rouland Brunsdon (b. 1917), a timber labourer and they raised a family. Eileen died in Southampton on 17 June 2009 aged 89.