Owen O'Hare was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England, on 28 August 1872, the son of Peter and Mary Ann O'Hare. His father was born in 1847 and his mother in 1851, both in County Cork, Ireland and he had two older brothers, Michael, who was born in 1867 and Patrick, who was born in 1871. Owen O’Hare was married to Sarah O'Hare, and in 1915 the family home was at 9 St John’s Road, Kirkdale, Liverpool.
His father Peter O’Hare had been a ships’ fireman serving in the Mercantile Marine and Owen followed his lead by also going to sea. On 12 April 1915 he engaged as an engineers' storekeeper in the Engineering Department on board the
Lusitania at Liverpool, at a monthly rate of pay of £7-10s-0d, (£7.50), £1-0s-0d of which was advanced to him at the time. He reported for duty at 8am on 17 April, the morning that the liner made her last ever departure from the River Mersey. It was not the first time that he had served on the vessel.
Three weeks later, on the afternoon of 7 May, on the vessel’s return journey to her home port, he lost his life after she was torpedoed and sunk off the southern coast of Ireland, by the German submarine
U-20. He was aged 42 years, although he gave his age on engagement as 40.
His body was recovered from the sea about a week after the sinking, however, and landed at Queenstown where it was taken to one of the temporary mortuaries there, and given the reference number 193. On 17 May 1915 it was buried in Mass Grave A, Row 5, Lower Tier, in the Old Church Cemetery, just outside the town.
On 22 September 1915 property recovered from his body was handed over to his widow Sarah, at the St Johns Road address. It would appear that up until this date he was still reported as missing, because on 24 September the Cunard Office in Queenstown sent the following memorandum to the General Manager’s Office in Liverpool: -
We have your memo of 23rd inst. and note that remains No. 193 have been identified as those of Owen O’Hare, Engineers storekeeper. We are obliged for this information which we are adding to our records.
It would therefore appear that the memorandum was occasioned by the handing over of his property to Sarah O’Hare.
Before this, Cunard records described body number 193 as:
Sailor. 45 years, 5’ 9” dark hair, narrow jaw, full face light brown moustache, short cocked nose, medium build, heavy eyebrows, navy blue serge coat, brown seaman’s trousers. brown socks, blucher boots, had cholera belt and black plaited leather belt round waist.
The property which was handed over to Sarah O’Hare on 22 September was described as:
Property. 18/- silver, 1½d copper, silver watch with heavy square linked chain, with locket attached with head of dof outside of locket and small photo of late pope inside locket, one gold ring with initials apparently “O.H.” Bunch of keys, knife and pipe.
The records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission show his rank as that of Refrigerating Greaser, but a list of crew members published by the Cunard Steam Ship Company in March 1916 shows it to be Engineers' Storekeeper, as stated above, which is more likely to have been correct. Probate records also show his rank as Storekeeper.
Administration of Owen O’Hare’s will was granted to his widow Sarah on 23 August 1915, and his effects amounted to £203-17s-5d, (£203.87). In the same month the balance of wages still owed to him in respect of his service on the
Lusitania was also paid to her. It covered the period from 17 April until 8 May 1915, 24 hours after the great ship had foundered. In addition, The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted her a yearly pension which amounted to £46-17s-6d (£46.87½) which was payable at the rate of £3-18s-2d (£3.91) per month.
There was another Owen O’Hare who served on the Lusitania’s
outward voyage to New York. He was a fireman, and was born in Armagh, County Armagh, Ireland in 1893. However he missed the trauma of the ship’s sinking as he deserted in New York and accordingly did not sail on her fateful last voyage
Despite the fact that Owen O’Hare has an identifiable burial site, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission was not aware of the fact and after the Great War commemorated him on the Mercantile Marine Memorial to the Missing at Tower Hill, London.
However once the author had established beyond doubt that he was buried in The Old Church Cemetery, the Commission agreed to erect a permanent memorial to him where he is buried and this was done in November 1998.
It takes the form of a monument of Irish limestone, sited at the head of Mass Grave B, the centre one of the three. The names of crew members buried in the three mass graves are incised on two black granite panels on the memorial, with a legend in between them which reads:
1914 - 1918
IN HONOURED MEMORY
OF THOSE NAMED WHO,
SERVING ON THE
DIED WHEN THE SHIP WAS
SUNK BY ENEMY ACTION
ON 7 MAY 1915
AND ARE BURIED NEARBY
The name 'GREASER O. O‘HARE' is incised on the right hand panel, still showing him in the erroneous rank!
The Commission has also stated that should it ever be necessary to renew the panel bearing his name on the Tower Hill Memorial, his name would be omitted from its replacement.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1881 Census of England and Wales, 1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, Lawrence Evans, Probate Records, UniLiv.D92/1/8-11, UniLiv.51/410, UniLiv. PR. 13/24, PRO BT 334.