Mr. Thomas McCormack

Thomas McCormack, 30, was returning to Ireland after living in the United States for two years.  During the sinking, he jumped from the stern at the height of about 40 feet.  He was rescued around 6 p.m. by Indian Empire. Thomas McCormack was a native of Robertstown, County Kildare, Ireland.  He learned to swim when a child in the local canal, and spent most of his time in the water in the summer months. While employed as a boatman with the Canal Company he once succeeded in swimming across the Shannon River.  McCormack was one of the crew of the string of boats off one of which a Robertstown man named Weir lost his life in the Shannon around 1910.  The boats drifted 40 perches before they could be stopped. McCormack saved a good sum of money working on the canal before emigrating to the United States, where he resided in Nashua, New Hampshire. He had been in the United States about two years when he decided to go home.  He booked Lusitania, not aware of any threat on the ship by the Germans.  He saw no placards in New York and no warnings published in the newspapers. During the voyage, he had seen people throw wreaths and flowers into the sea.  On asking about the reason for doing so, he was told that they were passing over the wreck of Titanic.  By his own recollection, he had made no friends or acquaintances while on board Lusitania. The first McCormack heard of submarines was on Wednesday, 5 May.  He saw the ship's lifeboats hung over the sides and asked a sailor the reason for this.  The sailor told him that they were preparing for submarine for attacks near England, but that there was no cause for alarm, as this practice was done on all trips. On Friday, 7 May, they sighted the coast of Ireland about 11 a.m.  Passengers were beginning to consider themselves safe.  McCormack was walking on the main deck around 2 p.m. when he heard "two bangs."  He did not think them very loud and did not know what was wrong till he noticed the ship keeling over to starboard. McCormack saw some panic as people stumbled over each other, running for life belts. He went to get his belt, but his third class birth was three decks below.  Before he had descended more than half way he found himself in knee-deep water. He returned up top to find the ship almost on her side, with the bow dipped low and the stern high in the air.  Lifeboats were being lowered and large numbers of people were standing around. No life belt was available, but he decided to jump.  McCormack decided that jumping on the side closest to the water would mean certain death, because "If a drowning person catches hold of you and you have no life belt it is all up."  To save his own life, he scrambled against the sloping, almost perpendicular deck to the stern, which was still over 40 feet in the air.  McCormack stripped off his coat, vest, and boots, and jumped. McCormack plunged to "an awful depth" before resurfacing.  He swam a distance about four or five perches away from Lusitania when the ship disappeared.  He witnessed a dreadful explosion which threw water and wreckage high into the air. McCormack first attempted to float himself on a trunk, but it capsized and almost drowned him.  He floated on for another hour and a quarter until he saw 6 lifebelts floating in the water.  He put one on and floated until he was rescued by Indian Empire around 6 p.m.  While in the water he saw many dead bodies of children floating about. He pulled himself aboard Indian Empire by rope, injuring his hands in the process.  He fell upon reaching the deck, having temporarily lost the power of his legs.  He told a reporter that Indian Empire had picked up a large number of people wearing lifebelts, but many of them died before reaching Queenstown. On arriving at Queenstown, he said that the survivors were very kindly treated. McCormack lost 75 in notes and all his belongings, including a new suit of clothes and a valuable watch.  A good portion of his savings were also lost, but the remainder was safely banked in Boston.

Links of interest


Robertstown Man on the "Lusitania" 29/05/1915 / Story of His Experiences / 40 Feet Jump for Life
Contributors: Senan Molony Michael Poirier References: "Robertstown Man on the 'Lusitania' 29/05/1915 / Story of His Experiences / 40 Feet Jump for Life."  Kildare Observer.  Online.  <http://kildare.ie/hospitality/historyandheritage/AthyHeritage/Kildare%20Observer/KildareObserverMay1915.htm>. Molony, Senan.  Lusitania:  An Irish Tragedy.  Mercier Press, 2004.

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