James Joseph Black was born in Crosby, near Liverpool, Lancashire, England, on the 26th April 1876, the eldest child of John and Sarah Maria Black. His father was a cashier for a Liverpool cotton merchant and James Black had at least three sisters, named Amy, Sarah Elizabeth, and Annie. He was educated at Southport Grammar School and afterwards followed his father into the cotton trade by becoming a cotton merchant, and a senior member of the Liverpool firm of Richardson and Ralli.
He was married to Annie Ethel Booth in Birkdale on the 20th June 1900, and they lived at 48, Eshe Road North, Blundellsands, Liverpool, Lancashire, England, with their three children.
James, for many years, frequently crossed the Atlantic Ocean in pursuit of his business interests.
In April 1915 he had gone to the United States of America on company business and for his return to Liverpool, he booked a saloon passage on the May sailing of the
Lusitania with the agency Post & Flag, of 38, Wall Street, New York. Before he joined the liner at her berth at Pier 54 in New York harbour on the morning of 1st May 1915, he stayed at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, in the city.
Once on board, with ticket number 46131, he was allocated room D7, which was under the personal supervision of First Class Bedroom Steward William McLeod, from Birkenhead in Cheshire. McLeod was a long established ‘time-server’ with the Cunard Steamship Company and had reached the rank of Chief First Class Bedroom Steward, but was serving in an ordinary capacity on what became the
Lusitania’s 202nd, and final, Atlantic crossing.
Her sailing was delayed from her scheduled 10.00 a.m. departure, however, until the early afternoon as she had to embark passengers, cargo and crew from the newly requisitioned Anchor Liner
Cameronia, which the British Admiralty had requisitioned for service as a troop ship at the end of April. Six days later James Black was killed when the ship was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20 within sight of the southern Irish coast and only hours away from her destination. He was aged 39 years.
On 19th May 1915, a request was made to the Cunard offices at Queenstown by his family, to send his body back to Blundellsands, if recovered, but it never was and as such, James Black has no known grave.
Bedroom Steward William McLeod also perished in the disaster, although his body was recovered and returned to his home for burial.
Administration of James Black’s estate was granted to his widow Annie on 17th July 1915 at Liverpool, and his effects amounted to £7,365-4s-2d, (£7,365.21p).
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1881 Census of England & Wales, 1891 Census of England & Wales, 1901 Census of England & Wales, 1911 Census of England & Wales, New York Passenger Lists 1820 – 1957, Cunard Records, Formby Times, Crosby Herald, Probate Records, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, PRO 22/71, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv D92/2/331, UniLiv. PR13/6, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Lawrence Evans, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly