Mr James Keegan was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England and in April 1912 stated he was 38 years of age. His true background remains uncertain.1
The earliest known work record for Keegan was in March 1894 when he was a trimmer aboard Lucania.
James was married in Southampton in late 1901 to Alice Maud Macey (b. 1881 in Southampton), the daughter of seaman George Macey and the former Caroline Ellen Wyatt. By 1910 James and Alice had welcomed six children: James William (1902-1902), Joseph John (b. 16 June 1903), John (1904-1904), Lawrence (b. 2 October 1905), Sidney James (b. 27 February 1908) and Alice Ellen (b. 4 January 1910). Their sons James and John did not reach their first birthdays.
The 1911 census shows Alice Keegan and her surviving children as residents of 2 West Place, Marine Parade, Southampton but James was absent, presumably at sea.
Keegan signed-on to the Titanic on 6 April 1912 with a cross as he could not write; his address was given as 2 West Place, Southampton. His previous ship was the Olympic and as a leading fireman his wages were £6, 10s per month.
James Keegan died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified.
His family received financial relief from the Mansion House Fund and his widow, who had been pregnant at the time of the sinking, later gave birth to a son towards the close of the year on 8 October 1912, naming him Frederick Ernest.
Life over the following years were difficult for Alice Keegan; within a year of being made a widow her mother died and this death was followed by the death of her younger sister Emily whilst an elder brother had died in 1911. Problems in her household with regards to her children began to manifest when in April 1916, whilst a resident of Endle Street, Alice was fined half-a-crown for her children’s sliding attendance at school. Two years later the domestic situation, far from improving, had worsened and was reportedly lapsing into neglect:
WIDOW’S IMPRISONMENT—At the Southampton Police Court, on Monday, Alice Keegan, a Titanic widow, living in Endle-street, was summoned by Inspector Connell, of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, for neglecting her five children under the age of sixteen, in a manner likely to cause them unnecessary suffering and injury to their health. She had been receiving from the Titanic Relief Fund and other sources about £3 a week, and yet her children and house were in a most dirty condition. Dr W. P. O’Meara spoke to the exceedingly dirty condition of the rooms and the children, and the Bench sentenced defendant to three months’ imprisonment, directing her to be relieved of the custody of the children. - Hampshire Advertiser, 9 March 1918
What became of Alice Keegan following this is uncertain; whilst there has been speculation that she died in the Isle of Wight in the mid-1950s this is not the case. Her final whereabouts remain unknown.
Her son Joseph later worked as a steward’s boy before becoming a land-based general labourer. In 1936 he married Daisy Gladys Biggs (b. 1906) but had no children. He died in Southampton in 1967.
Son Lawrence later worked as a steward aboard Homeric, among other ships. He migrated to the USA in the 1930s where he became a naturalised citizen. In 1935 he married a Bostonian woman of Polish ancestry named Helena Chivalck (b. 1913) and had a daughter named Helen Catherine in 1937. In America he served as a seaman and steward aboard the private yacht Nourmahal whose owner was none other than Vincent Astor.
Maintaining a home in Brooklyn for many years, Lawrence was widowed in 1972 before he passed away two years later in 1974. He and his wife are buried together Holy Cross Polish National Catholic Cemetery in Commack, New York.
Son Sidney later served as bell boy and later a steward aboard the Aquitania. He never married and later died in Southampton in 1979.
Daughter Ellen married George William Hawkins (b. 1907) in 1936 and settled in Portsmouth where their daughter Alicia was born in 1937. Alice died in Portsmouth in 1982.
Keegan’s posthumously born son Frederick also later worked as a bell boy aboard Homeric then marine steward aboard the Mauretania in the early 1930s and in the merchant fleet during WWII. Little else is known about him and his final whereabouts remain unclear.