John Alexander ‘Alec’ McCabe was born in Athol Street, Kirkdale, Liverpool, Lancashire, England, in 1886, the son of John Alexander and Bridget McCabe. He had one brother and three sisters.
In 1906, he married Mary Catherine ‘Katie’ Galvin and they lived at 18, Latham Street, Kirkdale, Liverpool. He had a remarkable gift for music which he shared with his wife Katie, who had a beautiful singing voice, and he used to entertain his shipmates on a concertina - an instrument which he particularly loved.
The couple had four children, John, Margaret, Mary and Catherine, also known as ‘Katie’, but the first three died in infancy due to malnutrition, as Alec McCabe was unable to obtain employment in those times of depravation and poverty. Katie junior only survived because she was born in April 1913, after her father had eventually been able to get regular work on the
Lusitania, which meant he could bring home a regular supply of money!
He signed on as a trimmer in the Engineering Department on board the Cunarder on 12th April 1915, for what became her last voyage, at a monthly rate of pay of £6-0s-0d., and reported for duty at 8 a.m. on the 17th April, the morning that she left the River Mersey for the final time.
He was killed when she was sunk and his body was never recovered and identified afterwards. Consequently, he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, London. He was aged 29 years.
He is also commemorated on the family gravestone in Ford Roman Catholic Cemetery, in Litherland, Liverpool and on a white marble plaque in St. James' Roman Catholic Church in Chestnut Grove, Bootle, Lancashire.
In common with all crew victims and survivors of the sinking, Cunard paid his wages up until 8th May, 24 hours after the sinking. Eventually, the balance owing to him was forwarded to his widow.
Tragedy followed tragedy for the McCabe family, as Mary ‘Katie’ McCabe died a few months after her husband, leaving Katie an orphan at just over two years of age. Buried with Mary ‘Katie’ McCabe was her infant daughter, Josephine. Fortunately, an old aunt and uncle, Thomas and Margaret Brennan, took her in and brought her up as if she were their own. In the late 1990s, she was able to help the author in the preparation of this account, with many family details.
The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted a yearly pension to the guardians of Katie, to assist in her upbringing, which amounted to £13-0s-0d. (£13.00p.) which was payable at the rate of £1-1s-8d. (£1.08½p.) per month.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1901 English Census, 1891 English Census, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, George Donnison, Katie McCabe, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv. PR 13/24, PRO BT 334.