Thomas ‘Tommy’ Laffey was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England in 1888, the son of Peter and Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ Laffey. Within a few weeks or months of his birth, his father died, leaving Tommy’s mother to raise five children. Tommy married Bridget Burke in Liverpool on the 3rd May 1908, and in 1915, they lived at 1, May Smith Place, Dryden Street, Liverpool.
He was a professional fireman in the British Mercantile Marine and on 12th April 1915, at Cunard’s offices in Liverpool, he engaged as a fireman in the Engineering Department on board the
Lusitania at a monthly rate of pay of £6-10s-0d, (£6.50p.). He was advanced £1-0s-d., of this at the time and he reported on board five days later at 8 a.m., in time for the liner’s last exit from the River Mersey.
The liner crossed the Atlantic without incident and having docked in New York on 24th April 1915, eventually left there a week later, on the early afternoon of 1st May, for her return to Liverpool. Then, six days later, on the afternoon of 7th 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 250 miles away from the safety of her home port.
Unfortunately, Thomas Laffey was killed as a result of this action - one of nearly 100 firemen who lost their lives in the sinking - and as his body was not recovered and identified afterwards, he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial to the Missing of the Great War at Tower Hill, in London. He was aged 27 years.
In August 1915, his widow Bridget received the balance of wages owed to him, in respect of his service on the
Lusitania’s last voyage, which was reckoned to be from 17th April 1915, until 8th May, 24 hours after the vessel had gone down. In addition, The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted her a yearly pension to compensate her for the loss of her husband. This amounted to £56-6s-1d. (£56.30½p.) which was payable at the rate of £4-13s-11d. (£4.69½p.) per month.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv. PR 13/24, PRO BT 334.