Mr James Crimmins was born in Southampton, Hampshire, England on 17 February 1891.
He was the son of Daniel Crimmins (1853-1902), a dock labourer, and Johanna Leahy (1852-1917), both Southampton-natives who had married in late 1877.
James was one of fourteen children born to his parents, ten of whom survived infancy. His known siblings were: Thomas (b. 1879), John (b. 1880), Helen (b. 1881), Mary (b. 1884), Michael (b. 1886), Dennis (b. 1888), Johanna (b. 1893), Catherine (b. 1894) and Elizabeth (b. 1897).
James first appears on the 1891 census as an infant living at 19 Cross Street, St Mary, Southampton. They would move to 7 King Street, Southampton by the time of the 1901 census and would still be at this address at the time of the 1911 census. At the time of the latter census James was still at home and described as an unmarried scaler for the White Star Line and his mother was now a widow, his father having died in 1902.
When he signed on to the Titanic, on 6 April 1912, James gave his address as 7 King Street, Southampton. His previous ship had been the Oceanic and as a fireman he could expect to earn monthly wages of £6. Also serving aboard was his brother-in-law Tommy Kerr, the husband of his sister Johanna.
In a 1955 interview James recalled that he was working in the boiler rooms at the time of the collision and that the "bump" threw him from his feet.
"We were told to stay at our posts. No one seemed excited, and it never occurred to anyone that the ship would sink."
He reported that when they learned the ship had struck an iceberg that the tone became more serious and they were ordered to draw the fires in the boilers. Once released from his post he went to the upper decks and assisted in loading the lifeboats and stated that he was in the last lifeboat although it is more likely he left in one of the aft starboard boats, escaping clad in only light boiler room garments that afforded little protection from the bitter cold of the Atlantic.
James Crimmins in the 1940s
(National Archives / Gavin Bell)
James returned to Southampton and continued working at sea, remaining a bachelor for the rest of his life. He was in the Royal Navy Reserves and served in the Merchant Navy during WWII, later as a night watchman, and survived the sinking of the Windsor Castle which was troop carrying in 1943, following which he was invalided from the service. Reportedly in ill-health for some time afterwards, he spent his last years living at the Salvation Army Hostel in Northam, Southampton but continued to work. He died on 15 February 1956 and was buried in Southampton's Old Cemetery.