Encyclopedia Titanica

James Robert McGough

First Class Passenger

James Robert McGough
James Robert McGough

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
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
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
James McGough in 1922


  1. Some records suggest 4 July 1875. Irish records apparently confirm he was born in 1876.
  2. The number of siblings uncertain; the 1900 census states that the McGoughs had nine surviving children; other reports suggest only 7: six boys and one girl.
  3. Census records differ as to when ranging from between 1891 to 1895.
  4. His death certificate lists his cause of death as retroperitoneal sarcoma.

Research Articles

Senan Molony Titanica! (2008) 12.45am - A Time to Go!
What time did the first lifeboat depart the Titanic?

Newspaper Articles

The Globe (19 April 1912) The Arrival
New York Times (23 April 1912) PHILADELPHIA SURVIVORS ILL
Evening Bulletin (26 July 1937) Death Notice of James R. McGough

Documents and Certificates

Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912, National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279]).


Search archive online

Comment and discuss

  1. Catherine G. McGough

    I think that JR - John Robert McGough - is my grandfather's cousin through his father, Thomas, who was my grandfather's uncle. Anyone know anything about JR other than the story of urging Molly Brown to get her lifejacket and get on a boat? He was hospitalized back in Philadelphia for "hysteria" which I believe is likened to a nervous breakdown. I am trying to trace what happened to him. He died in 1937.

  2. Susan E. Davis

    Hello, I'm related (very distantly!) to Edith Corse Evans who went down with the Titanic because she gave her lifeboat seat to another woman who had children. I was able to trace the connection through Quaker records which are very good. Does anyone know if pictures of her exist? I have read that there are none, but as wealthy as her family was it seems that there would be a family album, at least. I do a lot of genealogy, so I might be able to locate something if I do research. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Sincerely, Susan

  3. Deborah Russes

    Hi Susan: I have been doing genealogical research for a long time, too...with a lot of luck. Anyway, I saw your post and had to share something with you. In my Titanic book collection, I own one entitled "Titanic: Women and Children First". There was mention of her probably through the woman whom she gave her lifeboat seat to. Anyway, it talks about a plaque that was erected to Edith in honor of her heroism. The plaque (according to the book) is located at Grace Church in New York City. The book says that little exists of her today aside from the newspaper articles regarding... Read full post

  4. Jesse D O'Neill

    I Have read two interesting Pieces concerning McGough. 1. His Affidavit from The Senate Investigation 2.His Letter to his Mother Which can be found in: Our Nation's Archive : The History of the United States in Documents by Jay Crosby (Editor), Erik Bruun (Editor) There are some differences between the two. two differences off the top of my head are: 1. In his letter to his mother he claims he got in a lifeboat to persuade the female Passangers... Read full post

  5. Atlanta1912

    he is one of my ancestors. didn't even know i was related to someone on the titanic and i'm absolutely obsessed with anything to do with the titanic as well

  6. Mary A Hatter

    James Robert McGough was my great grandfather

Reply Watch Thread

Titanic Passenger Summary

Name: Mr James Robert McGough
Age: 35 years 9 months and 11 days (Male)
Nationality: Irish
Marital Status: Married to Mary J. Hughes
Occupation: Buyer
Embarked: Southampton on Wednesday 10th April 1912
Ticket No. 17473, £26 5s 9d
Cabin No. E25
Rescued (boat 7)  
Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
Died: Saturday 24th July 1937 aged 61 years
Cause of Death:
Buried: Holy Cross Cemetery, Yeadon, Pennsylvania, United States

Page Options

Watch this page

Improve this Biography

If you have any corrections or something to add please  get in touch