James Jarvie Aitken, known as ’Jarvie’ Aitken, was born in Dunfermline, Fifeshire, Scotland, on the 23rd July 1883, the son of James and Jessie Dawson Aitken (née Jarvie).
In 1910, Jarvie Aitken had immigrated to Canada and settled in Merritt, British Columbia and on the 9th October 1911, married Grace McKay (or Mackay) Taylor who had only arrived in Canada on the 1st October with her widowed father. Both Jarvie and Grace must have planned to marry prior to both of them arriving in Canada and obviously knew one another in Scotland. A son named James, but also known as ‘Jarvie’, was born to them in late 1912 or early 1913.
In 1912, Jarvie’s father Jim and his sister Chrissie had left Edinburgh to join his son and daughter-in-law, but on the 3rd February 1914, Grace Aitken died and as Jim Aitken had developed a heart condition, the family decided to return to Edinburgh, to Davidson’s Mains, and the home of Jarvie Aitken’s uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. William M. Marshall.
As a result, they all booked second cabin passage on the Anchor Liner Cameronia and at the end of April 1915; they left Merritt for the last time to travel to New York to join her. However, before they got there, the Admiralty requisitioned the Cameronia for use as a troop ship and the family was transferred instead to the much more luxurious
Lusitania. They all joined her at the Cunard berth, at Pier 54, in time for her sailing, just after mid-day on 1st May 1915. The family party consisted of Jarvie Aitken, his father Jim, his sister Chrissie, and his son Jarvie.
What must have seemed to them all to be a stroke of good fortune turned sour for them all just six days out of New York, when the liner was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20. The family was all but wiped as a result of this action, for out of the four who had left Merritt, only Chrissie Aitken survived. The other three were killed.
Jarvie Aitken senior was aged 31 years and as his body was never recovered and identified, he has no known grave. From those killed, only the body of his father, Jim Aitken was taken from the sea, identified and later buried in Queenstown.
British Columbia, Canada Marriage Index 1872 -1935, Cunard Records, Chris Doncaster, Edinburgh Evening News, Liverpool Record Office, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, PRO BT 100/345, Sunday Express, Surrey Comet, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly