Mr Thomas Patrick Dillon (Trimmer) was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England on 8 March 1879 1 and he was baptised one day later at St Mary's Church. He was the son of an Irish father, Thomas Dillon (b. 1853 in Dublin), a dock labourer, and a Scottish mother, Brigid Davey (b. 1855 in Lanarkshire).
He had seven known siblings: John (b. 1877), Michael (b. 1881), Elizabeth (b. 1883), Catherine (b. 1885), Mary A. (b. 1887), Rosanna (b. 1891) and James (b. 1894).
He first appears on the 1881 census when he and his family were living at 3, Court 3, Bond Street, St Martin, Liverpool. The family drop off the radar by the time of the 1891 census.
Dillon joined the Royal Navy on 18 June 1893, first serving aboard Impregnable in November 1897 before rising to become an able seaman. Other ships he would serve aboard included Lion, Pembroke, Cruiser, Empress of India, Barracouta, Excellent, Orion and Venerable; he appears on the 1901 census as a crewmember aboard the Albatross, then docked at Chatham, Kent.
Of varying conduct and spending at least two occasions on hard labour, Dillon stood at 5' 6½" and had brown hair, blue-grey eyes and a dark complexion. He went ashore and enlisted in the Royal Fleet Reserve in August 1905 before spending time on a host of merchant ships, appearing on crew lists as an able seaman from then through 1907, including Cedric, Majestic, Campania and Haverford. Liverpool addresses that he listed as his residence during this time included: Church Street, Berry Street and Lyons Street.
When Dillon signed on to the Titanic on 6 April 1912 he did so not as a seaman but as a trimmer, for reasons unknown. During his testimony about his time in the engine and boiler rooms he stated that that had been his first time below decks. Stating his local address as the Sailors' Home in Southampton, he also gave his previous ship as Oceanic; as a trimmer he could expect monthly wages of £5, 10s. During his time on Titanic he recalled helping to extinguish the fire in one of the forward stokeholds.
On the night of 14 April Dillon was on duty, seconded to an engine room to assist cleaning gear as, he explained, not all boilers were running and he was presumably not needed to carry out his normal duties. He heard the telegraph ring and within a few seconds he felt a slight jar, noting how the engines were stopped and put into reverse for about two minutes before resuming their normal forward motion for another short while until being halted altogether. The engineers hastened to their posts and the watertight doors were closed soon after.
Dillon then described opening the watertight door, by means of a pump, connecting the reciprocating engine room to the aft-most boiler room which was unoccupied and with no boilers in use before going forward and opening other watertight doors as far forward as boiler room 4, to allow the engineers to move freely along the length of the ship to operate pumps, et cetera, and he testified that the doors remained open as per the orders of the Chief Engineer Joseph Bell.
On his travels forward he noted that water was coming in through the floor as far aft as boiler room 4, located amidships and that further travel forward was not an option due to the level of flooding from boiler room 5 forward.
After spending time opening the doors Dillon admitted that he just "knocked about" for a while until around 1.15 am before making his way up on deck following commands from up top that all hands should muster on deck with their life preservers. He arrived at the aft well deck where he observed a crowd of steerage passengers but noticed only two women in the throng. He waited here for what he estimated to be 50 minutes and was in the company of John Bannon, Dennis Corcoran and James Mason. At one point he could he heard crew call out for more women as there was only one boat left, noticing from his vantage point that several women were being herded to the portside boat deck. He then "chased" the two women on well deck up the ladder to the boat deck. He remained on the well deck before taking himself up to the poop deck where he saw a large number of passengers gathered but saw no women.
Dillon testified that he remained on the ship until she took her final throes, describing how the ship slightly righted herself before plunging, noting that the aft-most funnel collapsed back towards the stern; he was, however, unable to say if the ship broke apart. He sank with the ship, getting pulled down about two fathoms (just short of three metres) before he was able to release himself.
"I went down with the ship and sank about two fathoms. Swam about twenty minutes in the water and was picked up by No. 4. About 1,000 others in the water in my estimation. Saw no women. Recovered consciousness and found Sailor Lyons and another lying on top of me dead."
Swimming for about twenty minutes he was later pulled aboard lifeboat 4, with greaser Thomas Ranger recalling pulling him aboard after the ship hand foundered. Once safe in the lifeboat Dillon lost consciousness.
According to Michael Davie:
"The drunk was a fireman from Belfast, Paddy Dillon, and he was the luckiest man of the night. He found the brandy somewhere, rapidly became drunk, toppled over the Titanic's side, and was immediately picked up."
He later awoke with seaman William Lyons and a male passenger lying on top of him, the latter dead. Dillon is believed to have been the man described by first class passengers Mrs Walter B. Stephenson and Miss Elizabeth Eustis:
"We implored the men to pull away from the ship, but they refused, and we pulled three men into the boat who had dropped off the ship and were swimming toward us. One man was drunk and had a bottle of brandy in his pocket which the quartermaster promptly threw overboard and the drunken man was thrown into the bottom of the boat and a blanket thrown over him."
Dillon was cared for aboard Carpathia for shock and exposure and returned to England where he was called to testify at the British Inquiry into the sinking.
Dillon returned to sea and during WWI served in the Royal Navy, again as an able seaman before returning to the merchant service; he was recorded as a seaman aboard War Snake; in 1926 he was serving as able seaman aboard Deucalion and in 1937 he was boatswain aboard Oppawa.
Thomas Dillon never married and in later years lived with a sister on Walmsley Street, Liverpool. He died on 2 January 1939 and was buried in the Ford Cemetery, Sefton.
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- Date as per baptismal record. In his crewman card his DOB is given as 18 March 1878 whilst his Royal Navy records record the date as 5 January 1878.
References and SourcesMichael Davie (1987) The Titanic, The Full Story Of A Tragedy
Colonel Archibald Gracie (1913) The Truth about the Titanic. New York, Mitchell Kennerley