Robert Henry Duncan was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England, on the 8th November 1880, the son of Thomas and Ann Duncan. On the 29th April 1907, he married Ellen Edmondson in Liverpool, and lived at 105, Chatsworth Avenue, Walton, Liverpool.
He was a professional marine engineer, like his father, having first been apprenticed to the firm of ‘Jackie’ Jones of Liverpool. Following this, he joined the shore staff of The Cunard Steam Ship Company. He then secured a position with The White Star Line, serving on the liners Germanic, Teutonic, Cedric and
Victorian. After three years’ service, he re-joined Cunard and secured his chief engineer’s certificate, serving on the
Campania as steering gear engineer. He then joined the Lusitania for the first time and served on her for four years.
After this first term of service, he moved to London and sailed out of there for Cunard on the steamers
Ascania and Ausonia before returning to Liverpool to join the
Lusitania once more as First Senior Third Engineer.
It was in this capacity that he engaged, for the last time, on the liner at Liverpool on 12th April 1915 at a monthly rate of pay of £16-0s-0d.. He reported for duty on the morning of 17th April 1915, before the ‘greyhound of the seas’, left her home port for the very last time to cross the Atlantic to New York for the very last time.
Three weeks later, he was still serving in the same capacity when the Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20 ten miles off the southern Irish coast and only hours away from Liverpool.
He survived the sinking and having been rescued from the sea was landed at Queenstown, from where he eventually got back to Liverpool. Once there, he was officially discharged from the
Lusitania’s final voyage and paid the balance of wages owing to him in respect of it. This amounted to £12-11s-10d., (£12.59.), and was in respect of his service from 17th April 1915 until 8th May 1915, 24 hours after the great liner had foundered.
He continued to serve in the Mercantile Marine for the remainder of his working life, attaining the rank of Chief Engineer.
Robert Henry Duncan died in Liverpool on the 1st October 1943, aged 62 years. At that time he was residing at 5. Wasdale Road, Liverpool. On the 29th October administration of his estate, which amounted to £438-7s-0d. (£438.35p.), was granted to his widow, Ellen.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1881 Census of England and Wales, 1891 Census of England and Wales, 1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Cunard Records, Marine Engineers’ Association Journal, Probate Records, PRO BT 100/345, PRO BT 350.