Joseph Kenny was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England, on the 31st July 1882, the son of Patrick and Ann Kenny. In 1915, the family home was at 25, Beresford Street, Liverpool.
He was a professional seaman in the British Mercantile Marine and he engaged as a fireman in the Engineering Department on board the
Lusitania, at Liverpool, on the 12th April 1915. His rate of pay in this job was £6-10s-0d, (£6.50p.) and £1-0s-d. of this was paid to him at the time. He had served on the
Having left Liverpool Pier Head on the morning of 17th April, the liner crossed the Atlantic and arrived in New York on 24th April 1915. She eventually left there one week later, on the early afternoon of 1st May, for her return to her home port. She never got there, however, for six days later, on the afternoon of 7th May; she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20, off the coast of southern Ireland and only about 250 miles away from the safety of the River Mersey.
Joseph Kenny was one of some 100 firemen who lost their lives as a result of this action and as his body was never recovered and identified afterwards, he has no known grave. He is, however, commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at to the Missing of the Great War, at Tower Hill, London. He was aged 23 years.
In August 1915, his family was paid the balance of wages owed to him, in respect of his service on the
Lusitania’s last voyage. This was counted as being from 17th April 1915, until 8th May - 24 hours after the vessel had foundered!
Cunard records show his forename as James, but the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which show it to be Joseph, are more likely to be reliable as the Cunard lists would have been compiled orally, at the time that the crew engaged. Furthermore, his signature in the Particulars of Engagement book when he engaged clearly show his forename to be
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1891 Census of England and Wales, 1901 Census of England and Wales, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, PRO BT 334.