Encyclopedia Titanica

James McGann

Trimmer

Mr James McGann was born in Liverpool, England on 26 June 18821 and was baptised on 5 July that same year in St Augustine's Church, Great Howard Street, Liverpool. Of Irish descent through both parents, McGann was a Roman Catholic and took the name of Patrick at his confirmation in June 1893. 

He was the son of Eugene McGann2 (circa 1859-1910), a mariner, and Mary Kelly (circa 1861-1909) who were married on 1 June 1880, also in St Augustine's Church. He had a younger brother named Joseph (b. 16 March 1884).

James—known as Jimmy—and his family appeared on the 1901 census whilst they were living at 3 Whitley Street, St Martin, Liverpool and James was described as a boiler scaler. He lost both his parents within a year of each other, his mother in May 1909 and his father in February 1910, both being buried in Ford Cemetery.

When he signed on to the Titanic on 10 April 1912, McGann gave his address as 18 St George's Place (?), Southampton (?). His previous ship had been the South Africa and as a trimmer he could expect monthly wages of £5, 10s.

McGann survived the sinking, escaping aboard the collapsible B.  Suffering from frostbite, he was later hospitalised in New York upon his arrival there aboard Carpathia and gave a brief interview to the press which was reprinted across numerous US newspapers.

“He [Captain Smith] held the little girl under one arm,” said James McGann, a fireman, “as he jumped into the sea and endeavored to reach the nearest lifeboat with the child. I took the other child into my arms as I was swept from the bridge deck. When I was plunged into the cold water I was compelled to release my hold on the child and I am satisfied that the same thing happened to captain Smith. 

“I had gone to the bridge deck to assist in lowering a collapsible boat. The water was then coming over the bridge and we were unable to launch it properly. It was overturned and was used as a liferaft, some 30 or more of us, mostly firemen clinging to it. Captain Smith looked as if he was trying to keep back the tears as he thought of the doomed ship. 

“He turned to the men lowering the boat and shouted: ‘Well, boys, it’s every man for himself.’ He then took one of the children standing by him on the bridge and jumped into the sea. He endeavored to reach the overturned boat but did not succeed. That was the last I saw of captain Smith.”

McGann said captain Smith from the bridge directed the lowering of the lifeboats. He said the story that captain Smith had committed suicide as the Titanic went down was without foundation. — Elmira Star Gazette, 20 April 1912

McGann was not required to give evidence to either of the US or British inquiries into the sinking; he later returned to Liverpool and likely continued working at sea.

In September 1914 he was married to Catherine McMeal (b. 2 September 1885) in Liverpool; they later had a son named Joseph (b. 3 November 1915) and a daughter named Catherine (b. 18 November 1918).

A late resident of Liverpool’s 172 Upper Frederick Street, James McGann was admitted to a sanitorium on 21 May 1918, afflicted with tuberculosis; he passed away two days later on 23 May 1918, aged just 34. He is buried in Ford Cemetery, Liverpool in an unmarked grave in common ground (section SJ, plot 152).

His widow Catherine was pregnant at the time of his loss and on 18 November 1918 delivered his daughter, also named Catherine. The elder Catherine never remarried and worked as a hospital laundress; in 1921 she lost her son Joseph and lived in Liverpool until her death in 1958. Her daughter Catherine remained unmarried and died in St Helens in 1973.  

James’ brother Joseph served in the First World War and was married in 1918 to Elizabeth Walls, raising a family until his death in 1962. Four of their grandsons, born to their son Joseph (b. 1924), would become actors: Joe (b. 1958), Paul (b. 1959), Mark (b. 1961) and Stephen (b. 1963). Paul McGann would be the most famous of the brothers, appearing in films such as Withnail and I and Alien3 as well as playing the eighth incarnation of the Doctor in Doctor Who in 1996.

 

Notes

  1. He would give his age as 26 when signing on to the Titanic.
  2. His father was apparently Liverpudlian by birth, of Irish parentage, according to most available records. The 1901 census states that he had been born in New York, USA.

Titanic Crew Summary

Name: Mr James McGann (Jimmy)
Age: 29 years 9 months and 19 days*  (Male)
Nationality: English
Religion: Roman Catholic
Marital Status: Single
Last Residence: at 18 St George's Place Southampton, Hampshire, England
Occupation: Trimmer
Last Ship: South Africa
Embarked: Southampton on Wednesday 10th April 1912
Rescued (boat B)  
Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
Died: 1918
Buried: Ford Cemetery, Liverpool, Lancashire, England

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References and Sources

Liverpool Echo (2014) Liverpool actor Paul McGann launches World War I project with his own family memories

Newspaper Articles

Chicago Inter Ocean (21 April 1912) Titanic's Captain leaped from sinking liner with child in arms
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Acknowledgements

Trevor Baxter, UK
Gavin Bell, UK
Peter Engberg-Klarström, Sweden
Andrew Williams, UK
Bill Wormstedt, USA