Mr James Keegan

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. 

Lawrence Keegan 
Lawrence in 1931

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.

Notes

  1. Two individuals named James Keegan were born in Liverpool in the correct timeframe but neither appear to have been the one who wound up aboard Titanic. James Keegan, b. 19 September 1873 to parents John and Anne, née Lacey; died aged 11 months the following year. James Joseph Keegan, b. 10 November 1873 to parents Patrick and Margaret, née Burns; he later worked as an agent, married and raised a family in Atherton. 
 

Articles and Stories

Hampshire Advertiser (1918) 
 

Comment and discuss

  1. bernard reynolds said:

    Mr James Keegan Leading Fireman did not die on the Titanic as is officially recorded in the United States and elsewhere, you see he was my great grandfather and he missed the maiden voyage for some unknown reason but was still on the crew list, in the merseyside maritime museum Liverpool these facts are recorded and there is a photo of him and his family and friends taken some time after the disaster.Thanks to him missing the maiden voyage I am here today.I have a photo of him and I will post it soon.

  2. Andrew Williams said:

    Bernard -- Forgive me for saying so but I cannot see how James Keegan survived when he's listed as lost. Not only that, his widow (Alice Maud) in 1915 was prosecuted by the Southampton Education Board for using excessive cruelty upon the children. A complicated case at the time as this involved two other organizations:- Southampton Police Station who in turn reported her behaviour to the N.S.P.C.C. In the end she was allowed to keep her children under certain conditions with the watchful eye of the N.S.P.C.C. In the late 1920's one of the children have reached the tender age, and has... Read full post

  3. bernard reynolds said:

    Dear Andrew I am totally puzzled , the first thing I am thinking is that he had another woman in southampton unknown to anyone, secondly, because he missed the maiden voyage maybe someone assumed his name. Other than that all I can say is that you contact the archive of the merseyside maritime museum via the web for confirmation because as far as they and I are aware he was a leading fireman on the titanic who missed the maiden voyage. attached is an image of him and family around 1919.

  4. bernard reynolds said:

    James Keegan leading fireman Olympic and Titanic is buried in Ford Cemetery in Litherland in Liverpool.I don't think he died twice mr williams.

  5. bernard reynolds said:

    couldn't attach picture but there is one of him in the Merseyside Maritime Museum taken after the disaster.

  6. avatar

    Michael H. Standart said:

    Perhaps might help a bit. The James "Kas" Keegan here is listed as never having been identified if his body was ever recovered. Either somebody screwed up or there's a case of mistaken identity here.

  7. Andrew Williams said:

    Hello Bernard, We are talking of the same James Keegan married to Alice Maud with their four children Joseph John, Lawrence, Sydney Francis and Alice Ellen? Alice Maud (Mother) and all four children as well as the Mother to Alice Maud (Mrs. Durnil) were placed under Relief Fund number C.156. I have a large selection of details covering the family from the Minute Book's that are held at Southampton Archives. There's nothing to be puzzled about. James Keegan's family were placed under the Southampton Committee as the family had moved down from Liverpool to Southampton. In what year... Read full post

  8. bernard reynolds said:

    There is a section of the titanic exhibition at the merseyside maritime museum that is devoted to the story of James Keegan, my great grandfather.It was created because of the story that he was listed as one of the leading firemen lost with the Titanic,and subsequently this fact was proved wrong and they have some memorabilia to do with the memorial functions the white star line gave in honour of the dead with his name printed , imagine their surprise when he turned up alive and well .I don't know about this alice maud or the southampton connection, maybe he led a double life . Quite a few... Read full post

  9. Andrew Williams said:

    I don't know Bernard, the mystery continues to deepen even more. How strange that none of the pages with the Southampton Titanic Relief Fund Committee ever mentioned of him leading a double life. Amongst your collection do you have the necessary credentials like a marriage certificate, births for the children including another handy certificate, the actual date and year of his death? Surely there must have been an obituary written as well? I am still looking for the confirmation to my question. We are talking of the same James Keegan who was married to Alice Maud formerly Durnil or... Read full post

  10. bernard reynolds said:

    I am going to research this more and will get back to you.

  11. Chris Talbot said:

    Mr. Reynolds I am curios of your information, my Grandfather was Lawrence Keegan and it was known in our family that his father died on the Titanic working as a lead fireman. My grandfather came to America and lived in Brooklyn N.Y. he worked as a shipsmate, he had two daughters and I am one of eight grandchildren he had. He died in 1972, if you have any information please provide it. Thanks

  12. bernard reynolds said:

    ok it's been a while because I have been trying to get some more information but it hasn't turned up anything unfortunately. A very kind lady at Southampton Library archives came up with the same stuff as Andrew Williams. The rest of the family are a bit reluctant to go digging any deeper in case this throws any light on the double life theory, imagine if he did have two families how very interesting that would be for us and a Mr Chris Talbot. Maybe we should get a DNA test Mr Talbot and see what happens. Again I will mention the 'evidence' that is in the archive of the MERSEYSIDE... Read full post

  13. Chris Talbot said:

    Mr. Reynolds, I've spoken to my relatives in the UK and we have come up with nothing to give your story any credit. By the way what part of the world are you located in? I'm in New York. Thanks, Chris Talbot

  14. Andrew Williams said:

    Greetings Chris -- and a big thank you for supplying more of your family tree. To be perfectly honest with you Chris, I have had many suspensions over Mr. Reynolds claim that James Keegan was married not once, but twice. How come I've gone down the same road and doubled-checked all the records at Southampton myself, and subsequently there's no supply of any obituary, no claim of any sort of a 'Probate report' let alone a mention in any of the Minute Book's of the Relief Fund at Southampton to confirm that Mr Keegan was married twice. Absolutely nothing! Come on Mr. Reynolds where's the... Read full post

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Credits

Hermann Söldner, Germany
Brian J. Ticehurst, UK
Andrew Williams, UK
Bill Wormstedt, USA

References and Sources

Crew Particulars of Engagement
United States Senate, Washington 1912. n° 806, Crew List
1911 Census
Hampshire Advertiser, 22 April 1916, School Attendance
Hampshire Advertiser, 9 March 1918, Widow’s Imprisonment
Search archive British newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

Encyclopedia Titanica (2020) James Keegan (ref: #1544, last updated: 17th August 2020, accessed 16th January 2021 22:27:51 PM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-victim/james-keegan.html