John Beggs was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England in 1888, the only son of the seven children of Peter and Elizabeth Beggs. His father was a sheet metal worker and Engineer Beggs lived with his parents at the family home, 71 Caldy Road, Aintree, Liverpool.
He first joined The Cunard Steam Ship Company as an engineering apprentice and having successfully completed this, he sailed for the firm of Messrs Bates and Sons on the New York run out of Liverpool, for the next four years, during which time he obtained his second class Board of Trade certificate. Having passed his first class certificate, he rejoined Cunard in September 1913.
On 12 April 1915 he engaged on board the Lusitania at Liverpool as Senior Sixth Engineer in the Engineering Department at a monthly rate of pay of £11-0s-0d and joined the liner on the morning of 17 April 1915, before she left the River Mersey for the last ever time.
Having completed her transatlantic crossing to New York, the liner left there on 1 May 1915 for her return journey to Liverpool. Six days out of New York she was torpedoed by the German submarine
U-20 about ten miles off the Old Head of Kinsale in southern Ireland.
Beggs was killed as a result of this torpedoing. He was aged 26 years, although when he engaged, he gave his age as 29. His body was not recovered and identified afterwards and as a consequence he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine War Memorial at Tower Hill, London.
He was also commemorated on a war memorial inside Trinity United Reformed Church (formerly Trinity Presbyterian Church) on the corner of Rice Lane and Orrel Lane, in the district of Orrel Park in Liverpool. The memorial took the form of a stained glass window, with the names of the fallen incised below it, on two brass panels. Unfortunately at the end of the 1990s, the church closed down and a decision on the future of the panels has not yet been made.
His name was also engraved on a brass plaque belonging to The Liverpool Branch of The Marine Engineers’ Association which used to be in The Britannia Rooms in The Cunard Building in Liverpool. Underneath the badge of the association was engraved:
ROLL OF HONOUR
A TRIBUTE TO THE MEMORY OF
THE MEMBERS, WHO LOST THEIR LIVES
THROUGH ENEMY ACTION IN THE
GREAT WAR. 1914 - 1919
and then followed the names of the 226 former members.
The memorial is not in the building today however and its present whereabouts, if it has survived, are not known.
On 30 June 1915 administration of his estate was granted to his father at Liverpool and his effects amounted to £155-10s-0d (£155.50). The balance of wages owed to him in respect of the
Lusitania’s final voyage was also given to him in August.
In a brief mention of Beggs’ service in 'The Journal of The Marine Engineers’ Association', it was said of the Senior Sixth Engineer: '
He was always a popular officer amongst his colleagues.
Mr. Beggs on more than one occasion has remarked on the exceptional high qualities of those with whom he was privileged to sail in the Cunard employ.
1891 Census of England and Wales, 1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, George Donnison, Marine Engineers’ Association Journal, Probate Records, PRO BT 100/345, PRO BT 334.