Margaret Armstrong Scott was born in Gorey, County Wexford, Ireland, in 1884, the daughter of Thomas and Catherine Scott. Her father was at various times a provision merchant and horticulturist, and Margaret was one of five children, although only three daughters survived to adulthood, Margaret being the eldest.
On the 10th September 1912, Margaret boarded the liner Caronia in Liverpool, arriving in New York in the United States of America, on the 18th September. On the day following her arrival, the 19th September 1912, she married George Alexander Anderson in Manhattan, New York, and the couple went to reside at 622, Carnegie Buildings, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. George, who was born in England, was an office clerk.
In the spring of 1915, Margaret Anderson decided to make a return trip to Britain - probably for a holiday and consequently booked second cabin passage on the May sailing of the
Lusitania, which was scheduled to leave New York for Liverpool, on the morning of 1st May 1915.
Having left Pittsburgh at the end of April, she arrived at the Cunard berth at Pier 54 in New York harbour on that date, only to find that the liner's departure had been delayed. This was caused because she had to wait to embark passengers, crew and cargo from the Anchor Liner Cameronia which the British Admiralty had requisitioned for war service as a troop ship, at the end of April.
The Lusitania finally left port just after mid-day and six days out of New York on the afternoon of 7th May, and within sight of the coast of southern Ireland, she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20. At that time, she was only about 250 miles away from her Liverpool destination. Margaret Anderson was killed as a result of this action. She was aged 31 years.
Her body was one of the first to be recovered from the sea, however, and having been landed at Queenstown, it was taken to the temporary mortuary set up in the yard of the Cunard office at Lynch’s Quay on the waterfront, where it was given the reference number 29. Once it had been positively identified, however, it was buried in The Old Church Cemetery, two miles north of the town, in Mass Grave C, on 10th May 1915. It was on this day that most of the victims of the sinking were buried, following a long funeral procession which began at Lynch’s Quay. It lies there still, today.
Property recovered from the body, which probably aided its identification, was put on board the S.S.
Orduña, bound for New York on 8th July and on its arrival there, was forwarded to her husband, at the Pittsburgh address, where it was delivered on 24th July 1915. Two days later, he officially acknowledged receipt of two items which were a gold plated bangle, inscribed with the initials M.A.S., - which were her maiden initials - and a 14 carat gold crescent brooch on a black bar.
However, Cunard had employed a local man to photograph the unidentified bodies prior to burial in the temporary mortuaries set up in Queenstown, in the hope that some of the victims could be identified later, as they had begun to decompose and had to be buried as soon as was practicable.
As a result of seeing these photographs, the family of second cabin passenger victim Hannah Ackroyd at first identified the photograph of victim number 29 as their relative. Presumably, mindful of the property taken from the body of number 29, Cunard disputed this and later, George Anderson widower of Margaret Anderson sent a photograph of his late wife to Queenstown, which was remarkably similar to the photograph of number 29 and victim 29 was eventually accepted as being Margaret Anderson. The Ackroyd family also eventually accepted this.
Cunard later explained the confusion thus:-
The original photographer was no help and was far from being perfect and we would like to say for future guidance that there is no one in the office who actually saw the photographs being taken. ..... In no single instance has the photographer been of any assistance and it is only by checking and re-checking, that we have been able to elucidate the complications naturally arising.
George Anderson became a naturalized citizen of the United States on 23rd March 1916, and in September 1916, he travelled to Ireland to visit Margaret’s grave in Queenstown and enquire as to having her remains disinterred from the mass grave. Presumably for health reasons, as over a year had passed since her burial, the authorities would have refused any application at this stage. George later submitted a claim for compensation for the loss of his wife. The Mixed Claims Commission, noting that both he and his wife were British subjects at the time of her death, refused to make any award to him, stating that no American citizen had been financially affected by the death of Margaret Anderson.
George Anderson remarried in 1931, his second wife being Helen Johnston, and he died in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on the 25th May 1945, aged 63 years.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1901 Census of Ireland, 1911 Census of Ireland, Cunard Records, New York Passenger Lists 1820 – 1957, New York Marriage Index 1822 – 1937, U.S. Passport Applications 1795 – 1925, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, Mixed Claims Commission Docket No. 2206, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv.D92/1/8-10, UniLiv D92/2/62, UniLiv D92/2/351, Deaths at Sea Records, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly