Owen Slavin was born in Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland in 1884. He was a professional seaman in the British Mercantile Marine and lived at 12, Blackstone Street, Kirkdale, Liverpool, Lancashire, England.
He engaged as a trimmer in the Engineering Department on board the Lusitania on 12th April 1915 at Liverpool at a monthly wage of £6-0s-0d., and joined the ship on the morning of 17th April, before she left Princes Landing Stage for the last time. His previous ship had been the liner Empress of Britain.
When the Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk, just three weeks later and six days out of New York on her return journey to Liverpool, although Owen Slavin survived, his left arm was badly crushed and after being rescued from the sea, he was landed at Queenstown and taken to The South Infirmary in Cork City, about 20 miles away.
Local newspaper The Cork Examiner told what happened to him in its edition of 10th May 1915. It stated: -
Mr. Slavin was the victim of a most unfortunate accident. Shortly after the first torpedo struck the liner, he was hit by some falling object on the arm and knocked down.
After this, he found himself in the water and was picked up by one of the boats. He was removed to Queenstown in a very exhausted condition. There, it was found that the fracture was so serious that the arm had to be amputated.
Two other Irish newspapers printed additional stories about him. The Cork Free Press stated in the 10th May edition: -
One man told a strange story. He was a member of the ship’s crew and was at his station when she was going down. He endeavoured to get his boat lowered, it being full of passengers. They worked at her for twenty five minutes to no avail, and they all went down with the Lusitania. He knew no more, but believed that there was no explosion on the ship as she went down.
When he became conscious, he was on the surface and seeing an upturned boat he seized its keel with his right hand. He prepared to make himself secure and made an effort to catch the keel with his left hand only to make the horrifying discovery that his arm was gone – blown clean away. He felt no pain, and was not aware of anything untoward having happened to him. He was taken on board a boat and his arm was then bound up and fastened with a rope to prevent his bleeding to death.
The Irish Times, in the 10th May edition further stated: -
Dr. S. B. D. Vescovi, an Italian returning from Chile, said he was on deck near the café when he felt a shock, and water and debris were thrown upwards. Then the people rushed about. Then suddenly the ship sank and he went down with her. He was in the water some hours, but at length reached an upturned boat on which there were several ladies.
A Greek steamer had picked them up. On the steamer he found one man’s arm was so badly injured that he had to amputate it with his penknife. He also dressed the injuries of another man, who had three fingers crushed.
It was probable that Trimmer Slavin was struck by debris thrown up in the air by the torpedo strike. There was no second torpedo, but the belief persisted amongst many for the rest of the century, that this was the case.
Trimmer Slavin was officially discharged from the Lusitania’s final voyage whilst still in hospital in Queenstown, where his left arm was amputated at the shoulder. He was also paid the balance of wages owing to him in respect of his sea service from 17th April 1915 until 8th May 1915 - 24 hours after the ship had foundered. At some stage, also, he would undoubtedly have received compensation for the loss of his arm.
Owen Slavin returned to his native Dundalk and found employment as a railway watchman. He married in 1923. In July 1937, he was found dead in a railway hut and an Inquest returned a verdict of ‘death from heart failure’. He was aged 59 years.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1901 Census of Ireland, Cork Examiner, The Cork Free press, The Irish Times, Hull Daily Mirror, Cunard Records, PRO BT 100/345,