Mr James Heslin was born in Edenappa, Jonesborough, Co Armagh, Ireland in 1861 1 and later baptised on 7 July that year in Dromintee, Armagh.
One of eight children born into a Roman Catholic family, Heslin was the son of Owen Heslin (b. circa 1830), a farmer, and his wife Margaret Murphy (b. circa 1833). Other details about his early life are largely unknown.
His siblings were: Ann (b. 1852), Thomas (b. 1863), Sarah (b. 1856), Mary (b. circa 1862), Joseph (b. 1864), Peter (b. 27 June 1867) and Owen (b. 4 June 1874).
James' father died on 13 January 1908 and his mother on 10 May 1911, both in Edenappa, Jonesborough.
Heslin had moved to Liverpool and first appears in shipping records in July 1888 when he was an ash hoister aboard City of New York, prior to which he had served about City of Berlin. By 1900 he was a greaser aboard Ultonia, stating his age as 32. He was still aboard the ship the following year and his address was stated as 113 Altro (?) Street and later the same year he served aboard Ivernia as a fireman. By March 1907 Heslin had several voyages under his belt as a fireman aboard the Campania, his address then being listed as 41 Tennyson Street.
James had married in Liverpool in the latter half of 1901 to Bridget "Biddy" Burns (b. 9 February 1869), the daughter of labourer Peter Burns and the former Ann Morgan. Like her new husband Bridget, a domestic cook, was also from Jonesborough, Co Armagh, she from the neighbouring town-land Foughill.
The couple had four children, all born in Bootle: Peter (b. 1902), Thomas (b. 1904) May (b. 1905) and James Edward (b. 1909).
The 1911 census shows Bridget Heslin and her three children residing at 5 Paton Street, Kirkdale, Liverpool along with her widowed mother Ann Burns (b. 1841); James was absent and likely at sea. Not long after this, and with the death of James' mother in May 1911, the family returned to Ireland and settled on the family farm in Edenappa, Jonesborough.
When he signed on to the Titanic, on 6 April 1912, James gave his local address as the Sailors' Home, Southampton and his previous ship as the Olympic. As a trimmer he could expect to earn monthly wages of £5, 10s.
James Heslin died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified.
His widow Bridget never remarried and remained with her children in Edenappa and had her two elder sons confirmed there on 18 April 1913.
Just prior to that further heartache had struck the family when the youngest child in the family, James died tragically; his mother had left the house for an errand, leaving young James with his elder sister May. Whilst the course of events remains uncertain, it appears that the young boy perhaps stumbled into an open fireplace, setting his garments alight and was severely burned. Despite his injuries James managed to cling on to life for close to a month but later died in the Newry Union Workhouse on 1 March 1913. On the child's death record it was stated that he was:
"... the son of James Heslin (greaser in S.S. Titanic and farmer) (Deceased)."
Bridget Heslin had a long life but was later afflicted with senility and spent her final days in St John of God Hospital in Newry, Co Down. She died on 21 December 1967 at the age of 102 (although it was erroneously stated in her death record that she was 104).