Mr Thomas Gibson Graham

Thomas Gibson Graham

Mr Thomas Gibson Graham was born in Belfast, Ireland on 26 December 1883.

He was the son of Robert Gibson Graham (b. circa 1845), a pattern maker, and Elizabeth McNeece (b. circa 1845), a native of Co Tyrone and who had married in Carnteel, Co Tyrone on 5 January 1865. 

He had three known siblings, Alexander (b. 13 October 1870), Elizabeth (b. 1873) and brother Robert (b. 1877) and the family were from a Church of Ireland religious background.

Thomas first appears on the 1901 census, described as a labourer in a rope-works and living at 34 Keatley Street in the Pottinger district of east Belfast, still with his mother. His mother died on 8 April 1903 and his father on 14 August 1909. 

With both his parents dead Thomas appears on the 1911 census living at 14 Downpatrick Street in Victoria, east Belfast, the home of his married sister Mrs William James Rainey (Elizabeth) and her family; he was then described as a steamship stoker and his brother Robert as a damask finisher.

He had worked as a stoker in the Royal Navy since 1903, serving on an assortment of ships, including Indus, Vivid and Emerald and was described as standing at 5' 3", with brown hair and grey eyes and of generally "good character". Exactly when he joined the merchant service is not known.

Graham was on the Titanic's delivery voyage from Belfast to Southampton. When he signed on again of the maiden voyage on 6 April 1912 he gave his home address as 28 Downpatrick Street, Belfast and his previous ship as the Howth Head. As a fireman he could expect monthly wages of £6.

Thomas Graham survived the sinking but how he escaped is not clear. He was called to the British Inquiry as a witness but was not required to give any evidence.

Following the disaster Thomas continued working at sea. He was married in his native Belfast on 2 March 1913 to Elizabeth Murphy (b. 1891), daughter of boilermaker James Murphy; he was described as a fireman and his address at the time was stated as 52 Agnes Street, Belfast. The marriage proved timely as only weeks later their daughter Elizabeth arrived on 20 April 1913 and at the time their address was listed as 18 Sanders Street, Belfast. Their first child would be followed by another daughter the following year, Isabella (b. 29 August 1914) and the family later lived at 64 Island Street in Sydenham, east Belfast.

Following the outbreak of WWI Thomas was quick to sign up for service with the Royal Irish Rifles but whether he ever saw any combat is not certain. In October 1917, in Newcastle, Co Down, an inquiry was held on account of his desertion, he having gone missing on 9 September 1917 and absconding aboard a ship. The identity of the ship is not stated or known but his wife declared that he deserted that vessel at Baltimore and that he had correspondence with her, he asking her not to use his real or full birth-name in any further communication.

On 15 February 1918 Thomas had applied for US citizenship, stating his then current address as 1501 First Street, Baltimore and described himself as a railroad fireman who had arrived in the USA at Virginia aboard Vigilant on 14 January 1918; he also declared that his wife was still in Ireland at 64 Island Street. 

Thomas was listed as living in Belfast at the time of the 1918 street directory, still at 64 Island Street and still described as a seaman but whether he was actually resident there at the time appears doubtful. What became of he and his family thereafter is not known1.

 

Credits

Gavin Bell

Notes

  1. Interestingly a Thomas Graham born in Northern Ireland (sic) in 1883 appears on the 1940 census of New York, living at Wallace Avenue in the Bronx and described as a widowed railroad labourer. Whether this is the same man is not known. An ancestry.com family tree shows that his daughter Isabella married a Sligo man, Edward Francis Phillips (1909-2001) and had a son named Ronald in London in 1937. Isabella died in London in 1997. 

References and Sources

Photo: National Archives (Courtesy of Gavin Bell)

Link and cite this biography

(2018) Thomas Gibson Graham Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #1500, updated 27th May 2018 08:40:24 AM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/thomas-graham.html

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