Allan Heron Adams was born in Blairgowrie, Perthshire, Scotland, on the 10th December 1872, the youngest son of William and Honoria (or Hanora) Adams (née Greig or Gregg). His siblings were William, Joseph, Ellen, and Thomas. His father, who was a baker, was born in Scotland, but had met and married Allan’s father in County Clare, Ireland. On completion of his education, he qualified as a telephone electrician.
Allan Adams moved to Liverpool, Lancashire, and in 1898, he married Jessie Johnson. While living in Liverpool the couple had three children – John ‘Jack’, born in 1899, Nora, born in 1900, and Jessie, born in 1904 - and they resided at 121. Webster Road, West Derby.
On the 4th June 1907, Allan Adams arrived in Montreal, Canada, on board the
Corinthian, and having established himself in Winnipeg, Manitoba, he returned to Scotland to assist his wife and their 3 children to relocate with him to Canada. The family arrived in Quebec on board the
Empress of Britain on the 27th August 1908 and set up home at 567, Lipton Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. In 1910, the couple had a fourth child - Gladys.
According to Allan Adams, employment became difficult to find in Canada in 1915, and learning that electricians and other tradesmen were required back in Great Britain to assist in the War Effort, he decided to return to his native land to “do his bit”, although it would seem that he had no desire to enlist at this time, giving the reason that he needed to provide for his young family. On making enquiries about returning to England, he learned that the
Lusitania was due to sail from New York on a date which was suitable, and on the 27th April, he left Winnipeg with his friend, Thomas Sandalls, who was an Englishman working in Winnipeg, and who also wished to return to England.
The journey from Winnipeg, by train, took three days and they arrived in New York City on the 30th April, the day before the
Lusitania was scheduled to leave New York. Both had booked second cabin passage and joined the liner before she left New York for the last time ever, on 1st May 1915.
Allan Adams claimed to have worked on the Lusitania during her construction as an electrician, and this is possible as construction began in June 1904.
After she was sunk, six days later, by the German submarine U-20, off the coast of southern Ireland, Allan Adams and Thomas Sandalls were counted amongst the survivors and having been rescued from the sea, landed at Queenstown. Allan and his friend, Tom Sandalls, were not together when the Lusitania was struck by the torpedo and sunk, and Allan was taken on board
H.M.S. Bluebell, one of the naval vessels based at Queenstown that arrived on the scene some hours after the vessel sank.
On landing at Queenstown, Allan was brought to the Queens Hotel in the town, where he stated that he was confined to bed for three days due to the injuries he received, which made walking very difficult. While confined, he requested that another survivor make enquiries as to the fate of his friend and travelling companion, Tom Sandalls, and a short time later the two men were reunited. Both men visited the temporary mortuaries that had been set up to accommodate the remains of the deceased passengers who had been recovered from the sea, and Allan was deeply disturbed and affected by this experience.
In the days immediately following the disaster, some confusion occurred as to whether a saloon passenger named Arthur H. Adams had actually perished or not, as Allan H. Adams’ name appeared on a list of survivors, as
The matter was only cleared up when he reported in person to the Cunard office in Queenstown, on 12th May.
Allan Adams and Thomas Sandalls eventually took a train to Dublin, from where they took the ferry to Holyhead. Once there, they boarded the train to Birkenhead Woodside station, where there was a Hansom cab waiting there to take them both to Liverpool.
Once he had arrived in Liverpool, he made for 177, Grove Street, where he presumably had friends or relatives. The Cunard Steam Ship Company provided him with accommodation at the North Western Hotel in the city.
He later claimed that he was the last man to leave the stricken ship and related his experiences to the press. It was reported: -
After swimming a short distance he found a collapsible boat to which 30 people were clinging. Captain Turner swam to the boat later and efforts were made by him and Mr. Adams and another passenger named Sandells to right the boat.
Thirty times, says Mr. Adams, attempts were made to right the boat but each time it slipped back and gradually the people clinging to it disappeared.
Eventually Captain Turner swam away and Mr. Adams did the same. An hour later, however, the current brought him back to the boat to which, not more than eight or ten people were then clinging. Mr. Adams floated on his back for another half hour before he was picked up.
Whilst in Liverpool, Allan H. Adams successfully applied for a grant of money from The Lusitania Relief Fund, which was inaugurated and administered by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool and other local dignitaries. This grant, which amounted to £8-0s-0d was to enable him to buy tools so that he could carry on his trade - and earn a living.
Within a few days, Adams was residing at the home of his brother at 86. Douglas Terrace, Newcastle-on-Tyne. He had found work at Messrs. Armstrong & Whitworth’s shipyard, but was unable to remain there as he was still suffering from his ordeal. After a rest of about two weeks, he then travelled to Glasgow, and again found employment, but was unable to concentrate and had to leave. He returned to Newcastle-on-Tyne, and was again employed by the shipyard, but despite the company trying to find a position he was comfortable in, it proved futile, and Allan Adam’s decided that the best course of action was to return to his wife and family in Winnipeg. On the 17th June, he wrote to the Liverpool Relief Fund, stating that he was unable to work, and seeking further financial assistance in order to return to his wife and children in Canada. He was refused further funds.
Eventually, the Cunard Steam Ship Company agreed to provide him with trans-Atlantic passage, and on 8th July 1915, he returned to New York, on a free passage on the S.S.
Orduña paid for by The Cunard Steam Ship Company. He claimed that a torpedo narrowly missed the vessel in the early hours of the first morning they were at sea, but otherwise the voyage was uneventful.
On the 16th July, The Company received a cable from his wife in Winnipeg seeking the cost of his fare from Liverpool to there as she was unable to provide it. Perhaps by that time, he had not arrived home!
The same day, Cunard replied with the following: -
Your cable of the 15th (sic) instant to hand, in reference to A.H. Adams,
(sic) survivor of the “LUSITANIA”. For your information we may state that we booked A.H. Adams to New York per S.S. “ORDUNA” which sailed from Liverpool on July 8th. We might state that this man has been extremely well treated whilst in Liverpool. He received an outfit from us on his arrival at Liverpool from Queenstown, whilst he also received assistance from the Relief Fund. We gave him a free passage to New York, but could not see our way to bear his expenses from New York to Winnipeg.
This reply notwithstanding, in October, having safely returned to Winnipeg, Allan H. Adams applied for further help from the Lusitania Relief Fund.
After careful consideration, this was refused, on the grounds that the fund was small anyway and although help was given to survivors after the sinking to alleviate immediate distress, after this, it was reserved solely to help widows and dependants of those who were lost.
On 27th November 1915, the Manitoba Free Press carried an advertisement for a book written by Allan H. Adams. The advertisement stated: -
A true and authentic record of the
LUSITANIA MURDER and of the
miraculous escape of the ORDUNA. By
a WINNIPEG SURVIVOR
50c At All Newsagents.
This book, entitled The Lusitania Crime and the Escape of the Orduña, was published by The Douglass-MacIntyre Printing & Binding Co. Ltd. of Winnipeg, and consisted of 90 pages. In it, Adams was very critical of the Cunard Steamship Company, not surprising, considering his futile efforts to obtain exorbitant sums of money from them. Contemporary accounts state that there was little or no demand for it!
The official list of passenger victims published by Cunard in March 1916 lists Allan H. Adams as
H. Allan Adams, but this is clearly an error.
In 1916, the couple had a fifth child – Edith. Allan enlisted in the Canadian Army on the 8th March 1916; however, he only stayed for 5 months, being discharged as being medically unfit. He re-enlisted on the 4th January 1918, but was again discharged for being medically unfit. He suffered from a nervous condition, which might have been as a result of his experiences in the sinking of the
On his return to Winnipeg, Allan Adams lodged a claim for compensation for the personal injuries he received and the loss of his tools and other property. On the 12th March 1926, a decision was made with regard to his claim and he was awarded $8,000 for personal injuries, with an annual rate 5% interest from 20th January 1920, and $850 for the loss of his property and money, with interest from the date of the sinking.
In 1929, Allan and Jessie Adams moved to Pasadena, Los Angeles, in the United States of America, accompanied by their son, Jack. Their other four children remained in Canada. In 1938, Jessie declared her intention to remain in the U.S., and at the time stated that Allan had returned to England.
As far as today’s relatives of Allan Adams know, he never made contact with any of his siblings or other relatives when he returned to England, and details of his life up to the time of his death are not known. In effect, he had deserted his family!
Allan Adams died in North Lonsdale Hospital, Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire, on the 16th September 1941, aged 68 years. His address at the time of his death was 125. Hindpool Road, Barrow-in-Furness, and his occupation given as unemployed labourer. His death certificate states that he died as a result of ‘swallowing Lysol while the balance of his mind was temporarily disturbed’. His wife, Jessie, died in Los Angeles on the 10th August 1946.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, Scotland Births & Baptisms 1564 – 1950, 1881 Census of Scotland, 1891 Census of Scotland, 1901 Census of England & Wales, 1911 Census of Canada, 1916 Census of Canada, 1921 Census of Canada, 1930 U.S. Federal Census, Cheshire Daily Echo, Cunard Records, New York Passenger Lists 1820 - 1957, Canadian Passenger Lists 1865 – 1935, NGMM, Liverpool Record Office, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv.D92/1/6, UniLiv. PR13/6, UniLiv D92/2/248, Janet Shaw, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly