Dr. Ralph Jack Richard Mecredy

Ralph Mecredy, 26, was born on 12 July 1888 in Dublin, Ireland to Richard James Mecredy, who was well known in the Irish motor and cycling world.  His place of residence was listed as being from Bray, County Wicklow and sometimes Chicago, Illinois, USA or Battle Creek, Michigan, USA.  The junior Mecredy and was a physician, an Irish national, and a cyclist, like his father.  Mecredy was also an Olympic athlete.  Mecredy survived the Lusitania sinking and his account is recorded in Irish newspapers.

Athletic feats

While Mecredy did not acquire the same stature as his father in the Irish cycling world, the junior Mecredy was a participant in the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden, where he competed for Great Britain, as Ireland was not yet independent.  His event was cycling.  In the individual road race, he competed for Team Ireland of Great Britain and came in 80th place.  His time in the race was 13-03:39.0.  In the team road race, he competed for Team Ireland-3 of Great Britain and came in 11th place.  His time in the race was 13-03:39.0.  Mecredy also was the first man to cover 300 miles a day on the road in Ireland, unpaced, and held the Irish 24 hours bicycle record. Mecredy was educated at Trinity College in Dublin.  While he was there, Mecredy was known for winning both athletic (track and field) events and cycling events on the same day, which the Irish Post and Weekly Telegraph claimed, "a feat for which we believe the history of the college races does not afford a parallel."


From 1913 to 1915, Mecredy was in the United States at the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan, studying the methods used at the health center frequented by the upper- and middle-class Americans.  He had been offered a "most lucrative appointment" in India, but turned it down to spend time in the United States before going into practice.


Mecredy was on board Lusitania for the ship's last crossing.  On the afternoon of 7 May 1915, Mecredy had been on deck but did not see the torpedo hit the ship.  Mecredy described the feeling of the torpedo impact as "though the ship was suddenly checked by a gigantic and invisible hand."  Soon afterwards, Mecredy recalled, "there was an explosion, and everything seemed to turn black.  Huge spouts of water, apparently black, came up all around us, and then washed down over the decks."  Mecredy remembered seeing a woman by the railing being hit by this column of water but did not think that she was seriously injured by it. Mecredy recalled much confusion aboard the ship, but not much panic.  He wasn't sure if the ship was going to sink, paced, trying to figure out what course of action he should take next.  He heard an order that women and children were to go to the boat deck at once, and a large number of passengers, seamen, and stokers filed up the stairs.  Children who fell while climbing were helped back up to their feet.  Mecredy also saw a steward with two camera strapped around his waist, snapping pictures as the ship sank.  "[N]o doubt he had a good idea of the value of such war photographs," Mecredy thought.  The steward did not survive and his body was brought ashore with the cameras strapped around his waist. After walking around the deck for a few minutes, Mecredy concluded the Lusitania was indeed going to sink.  By this point, the ship was down by the head listing considerably to starboard.  He saw a lifeboat that had been swung out and caught on the davits with some people on it.  He then saw people in the water and wondered how they got there, realizing that they must have been pitched out of the lifeboat.  Mecredy decided that it would be safer to be in the water than on the sinking ship but realized that the ship was still moving forward, and if he jumped, he would be left behind.  His two options were to jump from the fore end or from the stern.  Mecredy reasoned that he stood a greater risk of being sucked under or rolled over upon by the ship if he jumped from forward and decided to jump from the stern. Upon making his decision, Mecredy and other passengers lined up before a deck storage locker for lifebelts, but the supply of lifebelts ran out before he reached the head of the line.  He then ran belowdecks into the cabins to get a lifebelt with "no great difficulty," and he wore one and carried another in his hand.  While he was in his own cabin, he saw water pouring through the porthole in his cabin.  While he was climbing down the companionway, he ran into Archie Donald, who he had been acquainted with during the voyage. "Where did you get the lifebelts?" Donald asked Mecredy. "Down in the cabins," Mecredy explained, then telling Donald how he got the belts. Mecredy did not know how to put on his lifebelt and stripped down to his shirt and trousers to put it on.  He may have recalled a conversation with the Oldcastle Board of Guardians about the Titanic disaster, where Mecredy had declared that to get himself to safety, he would have "divested himself of his coat and vest and procured a lifebelt, which he said would be the best possible chance of escape." With the lifebelt now secured, Mecredy deliberated once more whether it would be better for him to jump from the stern or from the bow.  Reaching the second-cabin stairs, he saw that it was packed with people pushing their way down.  Unable to wait for them to pass, Mecredy swung his leg over the banister and climbed hand-over-hand along the outside of the staircase, so as to not be trampled by the crowd.  As he reached the deck, the ship gave a lurch that knocked down a number of people.  Mecredy, realizing that he had to make his move, decided to head to the stern.  He reached as far back as he could but saw the dive from that point as being too much for him.  "I was never much of a high diver," Mecredy recalled, "and with the stern of the Lusitania sticking out of the water, it was a murderous-looking jump." Mecredy then saw a log line, used for recording the ship's run, that people were using to slide down into the water and away from the sinking ship.  He waited for his chance to slide down, too.  He saw people making "neat, regular little splashes" in what was an otherwise chaotic sinking.  He carefully made his way, hand over hand, using his bare feet to steady himself.  The rope turned into wire after the first six feet, and Mecredy turned around, seeing couple of stokers coming down on top of him.  He had to hurry.  Mecredy slid down the wire, which stripped a considerable amount of skin off his hands before he landed into the water.  Salt water soaked his fresh wounds, stinging the raw flesh.  It was a "very uncomfortable getaway" as he later recalled, but he would not feel the stinging sensation until the next day. Reaching the water, Mecredy went down a few feet.  When he surfaced, he bumped into the stoker who had slid down after him, and Mecredy went under once more.  He realized that he had to get as far away from the sinking liner as possible.  As he swam, he tried to collect his thoughts and plan what to do next.  He saw a lifeboat and swam for it.  The boat was already crowded, but he swam to the stern and climbed in.  A Cork Examiner reporter asked Mecredy of this experience, "Were you invited in?" "Well," Mecredy admitted, "to tell you the truth I was not.  But I did not think it an occasion to stand upon ceremony, or rather, to swim upon ceremony." In the lifeboat he noticed that no one had taken charge.  One side was rowing with two oars and the other side with four oars.  One alarmed passenger exclaimed that there was no plug in their lifeboat because of the water in her.  Another worried that their lifeboat would be torpedoed.  Mecredy saw Lusitania plunge by the head, with her stern rising higher into the water.  The ship gave a great lurch, and then disappeared beneath the waves.  Air bubbles burst out from underneath, turning the sea into froth.  Lifeboats dotted the sea, and wreckage was everywhere, with people clinging onto available pieces. As Mecredy rode safely in the lifeboat when Lusitania went under, he concluded there was little undertow from the sinking.  Mecredy saw an upturned boat some distance away with men walking on her; a fellow woman passenger identified it as a German submarine because of the flag it was flying. The first rescue ships arrived an hour later.  He saw smoke tracks coming from "all points of the compass."  A trawler picked up his lifeboat, but some of the survivors refused to board her as they feared she would be torpedoed, too.  The trawler took the survivors to Queenstown and taken in charge by the Cunard Company.  Mecredy was quartered in the Rob Roy Hotel and given food and clothing and a pass from Queenstown to Dublin.  Mecredy had lost his money and was able to induce Cunard in giving him one shilling to buy a ticket from Dublin to Bray.  As the Cork Examiner reported, "Dr Mecredy smiled over the recollection of the financial embarrassment, surely the least troublesome thing in an experience of this kind." Contributors: Kieran Mecredy Senan Molony Michael Shetina References: Cork Examiner, 11 May 1915. Drogheda Independent, 15 May 1915. Hoehling, A.A. and Mary Hoehling.  The Last Voyage of the Lusitania.  Madison Books, 1956. Irish Post and Weekly Telegraph, 22 May 1915, page 3. Molony, Senan.  Lusitania:  An Irish Tragedy.  Mercier Press, 2004, pages 57-60. "Ralph Mecredy," Olympics at Sports-Reference.com.  <http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/me/ralph-mecredy-1.html>.

About the Author