Edward Barry, or Barrie, was born Baron (his birth forename) Tanenberg in Leeds, Yorkshire, England, on the 11th October 1876, the son of Marcus and Alice Tanenberg. His father was a silversmith and watchmaker. The family, which consisted of Baron, his parents, and his two younger siblings, Alexander and Rosetta, resided at 9. Craven Terrace, Leeds.
In 1890, his mother died, and Baron was working as a solicitor’s clerk, aged 14 years. His father remarried in 1892, and had five children with his second wife, Annie Goldstone.
By 1901, Baron was living in Manchester with an uncle and working as a waterproof garment maker, and at some stage met with a woman named Jessie Maggs. The couple had a child on the 11th October 1903, named Edna Alice May Tanenberg, born in West Ham, Essex, a suburb of London, and a second child, born in Chorlton, Lancashire, named Frederica Elsa, in 1905, although they didn’t marry until early 1907! By this time, Baron had become a cinematograph operator. On the 5th October 1907, Jessie Tanenberg died of tuberculosis, aged 21 years, and at that time the family resided at 26. Braemer Road, Rusholme, South Manchester.
From here on, Baron Tanenberg and his daughters, Edna Alice May and Frederica Elsa, disappear from official records; however, family members believe that Baron experienced financial difficulties around this time and perhaps this is why he changed his name to Edward Barry, or Barrie.
In 1911, Baron Tanenberg, now known as Edward Barry, was residing with a woman named Ethel Barry at 93. Praed Street, Paddington, London, with their two children, Edna, born in 1903, and Freda, in 1905. According to the 1911 Census of England, Edward and Ethel were married for 8 years, but this clearly was not possible and may have been stated for reasons of respectability. In fact, no record has been found to indicate that they ever actually married.
On the 4th March 1911, Edward Barry boarded the Mauritania at Liverpool and disembarked at New York harbour on the 10th March. Indications are that he remained in New York City until 1913, when he returned to England and settled in Birmingham, Warwickshire.
He lived at The Globe Inn, Manchester Street, Birmingham, Warwickshire, England, where the landlord, Mr. F.W. Robbins, was a personal friend of his. By now, Edward was involved with the Midland Exclusive Film Company in Birmingham.
On the 19th April 1915, Edward Barry arrived in New York as a second class passenger, having sailed from Liverpool on board the
St Paul. He was accompanied by Edgar Hounsell, also from Birmingham, who was the manager of The Midland Exclusive Film Company. Having conducted their business in New York, the pair booked passage to return to Liverpool on the
Lusitania, which was scheduled to depart from New York on Saturday, 1st May 1915.
Both men were on board the liner at Pier 54 in New York harbour in time for the scheduled 10.00am. departure; however, this was then delayed until 12.25pm., because she had to embark cargo, passengers and crew from Anchor Liner the
Cameronia which had been requisitioned by the British Admiralty for service as a troop ship at the end of April.
They both survived the sinking and having been rescued from the sea and landed at Queenstown, they took a train to Dublin together and then crossed to Holyhead by a fast Royal Mail Steamer to Holyhead, in North Wales. It is not supposed that they were rescued together, however, and were probably re-united at Queenstown. Edward Barry finally reached his home in Manchester Street, on Saturday morning.
The following day, he was interviewed by a reporter from The Birmingham Daily Post about his experiences, and his account was published in the Monday edition of the newspaper, on 10th May 1915. It stated: -
A rusted knife, some stained cigarettes, a few damp matches, and a padded life-jacket are all the souvenirs which one of the Birmingham survivors, Mr. E. Barry, showed a "Daily Post" representative last night, as the reminders of certainly the most exciting experience of his lifetime.
Mr. Barry, who seemed little the worse for the trying experiences he had undergone, arrived home shortly after six o'clock yesterday morning. He certainly had sustained a few cuts and gashes as the result of coming into contact with floating wreckage, and his clothing still hung dank on the line in the back yard, but otherwise there was nothing to indicate that one was speaking to one who had been face to face with death.
When the ship was torpedoed, about two o'clock in the afternoon, Mr. Barry explained, he and his friends had just finished dinner and ordered coffee. Then was heard a dull thud and all in the saloon sprang to their feet.
"I said to Mr. Hounsell", the narrator continued, "that's a torpedo, or the ship has struck a rock." They were at that time in sight of land.
There was no panic, the stewards reassuring everybody that there was no immediate danger, in as much as the watertight compartments were closed. Nevertheless, the steamer immediately assumed a decided list. Everything on the saloon tables slid on to the floor, and it became increasingly difficult to walk about. The women and children were hurried to the deck and Mr. Barry and his colleague Mr. Hounsell, went to their cabins to put on their life-saving jackets. They then helped to put the jackets on a number of women and children.
Although it was evident that the ship was rapidly settling down, everything was done in an orderly manner. The stewards stood shouting "This way to the boats," as a commissioner might call, "This way to the pictures." Mr. Barry, realising the imminent peril of those on board, started cutting the cords of the tarpaulin covers over the collapsible boats. The Lusitania was then heeling right over, but still the spirit of chivalry reigned and not one man attempted to enter a boat while there was a woman or child about.
Mr. Barry saw the only thing to be done was to take to the water. He accordingly made his way to the part of the vessel which had settled down most and jumped into the sea. At that moment, everything on deck seemed to be loosed from its fastenings, and came hurtling into the water. To the fact that he had put on his life-saving jacket upside down, Mr. Barry attributes his safety. The pads were round his waist instead of his shoulders and a heavy body struck him violently just where his back was protected. He was submerged for what seemed a lifetime, and then, perhaps because of the bursting of the boilers, the waters surged upwards about his head, and he came quickly to the surface.
The day was fine, and there was a calm sea. When Mr. Barry had time to look about him he witnessed heartrending scenes. In all directions heads were bobbing about in the water, and the screams of women and childen fell on the ear. Some were clinging to deck-chairs which had been thrown overboard, others to boats which had been overturned. Mr. Barry, who is a strong swimmer, made for a collapsible boat which had been capsized, and to which some men were clinging. On his way, he saw a baby floating in the water, and grasping the child, continued on his way. When he reached his goal he was exhausted, but a steward lent a helping hand until he was able to clamber to comparative safety with his charge. The baby, however, was found to be dead. It had been struck on the head by some wreckage, probably when the ship turned over. On the same raft was an American lady whose husband was lost, and another lady who was injured.
In eighteen minutes, Mr. Barry added, the great Lusitania was lost from view, and only the boats and struggling survivors could be seen. Some other passengers had got a collapsible boat in order, and this frail craft was responsible for the saving of 47 lives. Soon, the boats began to drift apart, but help was at hand. A Greek steamer was about the first on the scene and, on the horizon, smoke clouds betokened the approach of other rescuers. Two of the helpers proved to be torpedo-boats and as the shipwrecked passengers saw the Union Jack floating over these two ocean greyhounds, they were constrained to cheer despite their precarious position. Trawlers and colliers also hurried to the rescue and picked up the survivors.
The Greek steamer was in fact the S.S. Katerina, outward bound from Havana, Cuba, laden with sugar and heading for Queenstown, where she was to re-coal, before being diverted to pick up survivors. Mr. Barry’s account continued: -
One of the vessels drew up alongside the boat to which Mr. Barry and others were clinging, but just at that moment, cries of distress were heard and the captain was asked to succour those in more immediate need. Mr. Barry was eventually picked up by a patrol boat about seven o' clock, and some "good British navy rum" was served out.
The survivors were landed at Queenstown, where they were received with great kindness. The inhabitants gave up their beds, and the town lent uniforms and overcoats to those in need. Mr. Barry and Mr. Hounsell made the passage to England in a fast mail-boat on Saturday night and though they lost all their belongings, were delighted to arrive safely after a most trying time.
Edward Barry also related a fascinating story concerning the capture and arrest of alleged German spies and this story was published in
The Bradford Daily Telegram of 10th May 1915: -
The affair is really full of mystery, for nobody seems to know exactly what happened.
After we had left New York two days, three men, who were alleged to be German spies and concerning whom very little was known by the passengers, were arrested. They were arrested by Scotland Yard men, of whom there were several on board. They were put into irons and imprisoned somewhere in the bottom of the ship.
Since landing, I have heard that they all went down with the Lusitania.
This incident, which has also been mentioned by a few other passengers, is still surrounded in mystery, all these years later.
One police officer involved in the incident, although not of Scotland Yard but Liverpool City Police, was Inspector William Pierpoint. He was listed amongst the saloon passengers but was on board, perhaps undercover, to perform some sort of police duties.
He later related that when the ship was sinking, he had attempted to release the trapped prisoners, but by the time he had got below decks, the water level was already so high that the ship's brig would already have been under water and the prisoners would already have perished.
No evidence exists today as to the identity of the alleged spies, or their nationalities.
Although Cunard records spell Edward Barry’s surname Barrie, both
The Birmingham Daily Post and The Bradford Daily Telegram spell it Barry. Also, Barry is the spelling used by his family in the 1911 Census of England and Wales record.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1881 Census of England & Wales, 1891 Census of England & Wales, 1911 Census of England & Wales, New York Passenger Lists 1820 – 1957,Bradford Daily Telegram, Birmingham Daily Post, Cunard Records, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv D92/2/40, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly