John Brennan was born in Bootle, Lancashire, England, on 6th November 1896 the son of Jeremiah and Mary Brennan (née Gore). The family home was at 17, Johnstone Street, Bootle.
He was a quiet man, but extremely kind and patient.
He signed on as a trimmer in the Engineering Department on board the Lusitania at Liverpool, on 12th April 1915 for what would be the liner’s last ever voyage to America and reported for duty at 8 a.m. on 17th April, the day she left the River Mersey. As a trimmer, his monthly rate of pay was £6-0s-0d. It was not his first voyage on the
He survived the sinking, and having been landed at Queenstown, was eventually repatriated to England.
In common with all the Lusitania’s crew, survivors or killed, Trimmer Brennan was paid up until 8th May, 1915, 24 hours after the liner went down. The balance owing to him, which he collected at Liverpool, was £5-6s-2d., (£5.30p.).
On 1st November 1919, he married Mary Elizabeth Deaves and together they had nine children, Mary, John, Elizabeth, William, Margaret, Esther, Joan, Ann and Florence.
He would rarely speak about his experiences on the Lusitania, not even to his children, but his daughter Florence Bocking, in a letter to the author written in 1998 remembers that he used to advise them all that it they were ever in trouble on a ship, they should climb to the highest point and then jump off. It is possible from this advice, that he had done this himself to effect his escape from the sinking liner.
In one of the rare occasions when he did speak of his survival, however, he mentioned helping to save an American family and pulling a young child out of the sea. He had also said that there was a high born American lady in the same lifeboat as he, so he must have been able to get into a lifeboat, which may well have saved his life.
John Brennan died on the 14th May 1973, aged 76 years, at Prescot, Lancashire.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1901 Census of England & Wales, 1911 Census of England & Wales, Cunard Records, PRO BT 100/345, PRO BT 350 Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Lawrence Evans, Florence Bocking,, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly