Mr James Robert McGough was born in Mandistown, Drumconrath, a small village in Co Meath, Ireland on 4 July 1876.1
He was the son of Thomas McGough (b. 1834), a farrier and blacksmith, and Catherine Dowdell (b. 1850). He came from a family of nine 2 and his known siblings were: Patrick (b. 1871), John (b. 1872), Thomas (b. 1878), Joseph (b. 1882), Mary (b. 1886), Philip Aloysius (1888-1953) and Andrew Francis (1890-1926).
The family had emigrated to the USA in the early 1890s, with McGough arriving aboard the Etruria on 20 May 1894. They made their home in Philadelphia and appear there on the 1900 census at 1916 Carpenter Street when James was described as a delivery clerk. He later became a merchant and worked for the firm of Strawbridge & Clothier and was still living, unmarried, with his widowed mother and siblings by the time of the 1910 census, still in Philadelphia.
James petitioned to become a citizen of the USA on 16 July 1908, described then as a Caucasian male standing at 6' 2" and with the trademark Irish features of dark hair and blue eyes; he was declared a citizen on 10 February 1911 and at the time his address was 252 South 57th Street. He was married around 1909 to a Philadelphian lady named Mary J. Hughes (b. 1874), the daughter of Irish immigrants Patrick Hughes, a liquor merchant, and his wife Theresa; they remained childless.
A frequent traveller to Europe on business, with one trip in 1911 aboard Lusitania, McGough boarded the Titanic at Southampton as a first class passenger (ticket number PC 17473, which cost £26, 5s, 9d). He shared cabin E25 with John Irwin Flynn.
According to his later testimony, after the collision, they went out and met second steward George Dodd who informed them they were not in any danger and should go back to bed. However, following his instinct and after alerting the lady passenger across the hall from his room, McGough, along with Flynn, went up to the promenade deck. Once there, the two were ordered to put on their lifebelts. After getting the belts from their cabin they returned to the deck where they saw women and children being put in the lifeboats. As there was great hesitation on the part of the passengers to get in the boats, a large officer gave McGough a push into a starboard boat (boat 7), saying, "You are a big fellow, get into the boat."
Lifeboat 7 contained about 28 people but once in the water they met with another and 5 more were transferred into it. Even after all this the people in the lifeboat still felt it would only be a short time before they would row back to the Titanic. Finally, realising the great ship was sinking, they rowed away, afraid of the suction.
McGough also recounted that there was water and crackers in the boat, although this was unknown to them at the time. Also, there was some talk about going back for survivors but "...some of the women passengers objected to our making an effort."
James McGough in 1919
McGough returned to Philadelphia and continued to work and travel across the Atlantic, journeying on the Lusitania, Mauretania, Aquitania, Majestic and Olympic.
By 1920 McGough and his wife were living at York Street, Philadelphia and he was still described as a department store buyer, as he was on the 1930 census when the couple were living at 4622 Pulaski, Philadelphia.
James McGough in 1920
The depression in the early 1930s saw McGough down on his luck and unemployed and he was widowed during this period also on 25 March 1934 following a battle with stomach cancer. He himself succumbed as a result of a rare form of cancer4 on 24 July 1937 aged 61, following a two-year long fight; he was buried in a family plot in Holy Cross Cemetery, Delaware, Pennsylvania.
James McGough in 1922