Owen Connelly was born in Shotts, Lanarkshire, Scotland on 29 August 1863, the son of Owen and Margaret Connelly. His father was an iron furnace man, and when Owen junior was in his early teenage years he also worked as a labourer in the same iron foundry. He emigrated to America in 1888, where he settled initially in Massachusetts, but later moved to New York City.
On 5 October 1892 Owen Connelly junior married Delia Fitzpatrick in New York City, where they had seven children; Margaret, Mary, Annie I, Owen, Nora, born in 1903, Andrew, born in 1905, and Francis Augusta, born in 1909. They lived at 337 East 95th Street in New York City, but while in England, Owen resided at 46 Leonard Street, Liverpool, Lancashire. By this time he was a professional engine room man in the British Mercantile Marine, working on transatlantic liners.
At Liverpool on 12 April 1915, he engaged as a trimmer in the Engineering Department on board the
Lusitania, for what would be the liner’s last ever voyage to America and he reported for duty at 8am on 17 April, the day she left the River Mersey for the last time. As a trimmer his monthly rate of pay was £6-0s-0d and upon engagement he was given an advance on his pay of £1-0s-0d.
Having completed the liner’s crossing to New York without mishap, Owen Connolly was serving on board on the early afternoon of 1 May, as the
Lusitania left New York on the start of her return voyage to Liverpool. Six days into the voyage, on the afternoon of 7 May, she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20, within sight of the coast of southern Ireland. At that time she was only about 14 hours steaming time away from the safety of her home port. Trimmer Connolly lost his life as a result of this action. He was aged 51 years.
His body was not recovered from the sea and identified afterwards, so he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, London.
In August 1915 his widow Delia was paid the balance of wages owed to him in respect of his service on the
Lusitania’s last voyage, which was reckoned to be from 17 April to 8 May, 24 hours after the vessel had gone down. In addition the Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted a yearly pension to Delia Connelly to compensate her for the loss of her husband, which amounted to £53-10s-3d (£53.51) payable at the rate of £13-7s-7d (£13.38) per quarter.
After the war his widow, Delia and their children Mrs Margaret Ernest, Mrs Mary O’Brien, Mrs Annie I Monahan, Owen, Nora, Andrew and Francis, filed a claim with the US State Department for compensation for the loss of Owen Connelly’s life. It transpired that whereas Owen Connolly declared his intention to become a naturalized citizen of the United States in May 1906, he never completed the process, and therefore remained a British subject at the time of his death, as did Delia.
The Mixed Claims Commission, in considering the claim, decided that Delia was not entitled to any compensation from them as she was a British subject at the time of her husband’s death, nor were Margaret, Mary, Annie, and Owen, as they were not dependant on their father at that time. The Commission did however, award the sum of $1,000 each, to Nora and Andrew, and $1,500 to Francis, as they were proved to be dependant on their father at the time of his death.
1871 Census of Scotland, 1881 Census of Scotland, 1900 U.S. Federal Census, 1910 U.S. Federal Census, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, Mixed Claims Commission Docket No. 4065, Lawrence Evans, PRO BT 334, UniLiv. PR 13/24.