Allan Martin Beattie was born in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, Canada, on the 19th December 1895, the son of The Reverend John Alexander Beattie, a Presbyterian clergyman, and his wife, Mrs. Geneva “Grace” S. Beattie. The family home was in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and on completing his education, Allan became a newspaper reporter.
In 1915, his father was a captain and chaplain to the 79th Cameron Highlanders of Winnipeg and sailed with the battalion for Europe on 24th April. Allan Beattie and his mother left Winnipeg by rail for New York, presumably to be closer to him. They boarded the Lusitania as second cabin passengers on the morning of 1st May 1915, in time for her last departure from the harbour, which began just after mid-day.
Six days later, on the afternoon of 7th May with the vessel off the coast of southern Ireland, she was torpedoed and sunk, but although Allan Beattie survived, his mother Grace was killed.
The Liverpool Echo for Monday 10th May 1915, later reported: -
Alan (sic.) Beattie a young fellow from Winnipeg surrendered a lifebelt three times to lady passengers, and then jumped into the water to chance his luck. He is now in Liverpool.
A fellow second cabin passenger survivor Mrs. Winifred Hull also from Winnipeg mentioned the Beattie family quite extensively in a letter written to her husband George, back home in Winnipeg after her safe arrival at her parents’ home in Wallasey, Cheshire. This part of the letter involved the aftermath of the sinking, when she and Allan Beattie had been rescued from the sea and landed at Queenstown. She wrote: -
Early in the morning I rose & dressed tho' my clothes were by no means dry and I sat on the landing till some of the men, both passengers and crew appeared, and when Allan Beattie came downstairs, we went to see if we could send some telegrams but were unable to do so, so went back and had some breakfast, meanwhile being told that if we went to a certain store, we could get any clothing we were in need of. So while Allan got what he wanted, I got a coat & hat and a couple of handkerchiefs. They also gave me a silk waist and a tie and I had to write my name & the class I travelled in on the ship, on the bill, for them to show to Cunard. I suppose you will know Allan's name. I remember myself seeing Mr. Beattie's name in the Winnipeg papers and no doubt you know he is a chaplain with the first Canadian contingent at Folkestone. Mrs. Beattie and their only child, Allan, were travelling to join him there. I saw them at the depot at Chicago but did not make their acquaintance until we were on the ship. She, poor lady was not up till Thursday, and I had quite a long conversation with her then. Allan told me he got a life belt on her but never saw her after. He came on the trawler after me and I was more glad than I can say to see him. Despite the fact, I was very thankful I was travelling alone and had not to bear an agony of doubt as to the fate of some loved one, or have them bear that for me. Still I felt horribly lonely and I knew none of the people in the boat and they were nearly all occupied with those dear to them or people they (knew) and Allan too was alone, poor boy. So we kept closely together and nearly all the day of Saturday was spent by us going from one place to another, seeking his mother and once when we crossed from Cunard's offices a woman's voice hailed me from a bedroom window.
She was in a terrible state but seemed to take the idea she would like to travel with Allan & I, so when we went to the Station we took her with us and held her up between us. From half past two till
¼ after four o'clock we had to stand in the Station to get our rail & boat tickets. When we received them we took Mrs. Baxter to the waiting room & laid her down - and there I left Allan with her while Mr. Swanton, a young fellow about 19 or 20 (at whose home Mrs. Baxter & others had been housed, and clothed) took me thro' the morgues in order that I might satisfy the poor soul as to whether her dear ones were among the dead and also see if poor Mrs. Beattie was there, but I found none of them.
But oh George, may I be spared such a sight again, I was sick and ill with the horror of it all, but with Mr. Swanton's help I managed to get back to his Mother's home, and there for a little time broke down entirely - and the kindness shown to us all on every hand was something not to be expressed in words. Then, while I rested, Mr. Swanton went to the Station again to fetch Allan & Mrs. Baxter and the wife of a steward who was with them, and he also arranged for a hot dinner for us at a place near by. Then his Mother gave Allan a purse with some few shillings, in case we needed any before the journey's end.
The people in the small party then made their way to Dublin where they caught a boat to Holyhead. It was there that Mrs. Baxter finally lost her composure and broke down: -
Allan and I held her hands and poor Allan, forgetting, or rather putting his own sorrow on one side put his arm around her to try and comfort her. But soon again she smiled at us thro' the tears and held up well to the end of the journey, but every station at which we stopped was crowded with people who gazed upon us as if we were beings of another world, and the feeling was not comforting. At Chester we had to change again and here they brought tea, sandwiches and cake. We took the tea for we were all so thirsty. Between five and six in the evening we arrived at Woodside (B'head) Ferry and here were more heartrending scenes, wives & children & other relatives of passengers and crew, being gathered there to see if their own dear ones were among the survivors. Many were the piteous enquiries I had made of me. It made me heartsick. Eventually, we were taken across the river, and here the crowds of people were so dense, that policemen had to make a passage way for us to the cabs they had in readiness to take us to the Cunard Offices where again our names were taken and refreshments offered. Then I went with Mrs. Baxter & Allan, (one of the officials accompanying us) in a taxi to the Adelphi Hotel, where Allan's father was staying. The meeting between Father and Son I shall not forget. What the sight of it meant to Mrs. Baxter is beyond me to say.
Allan Beattie eventually made for Upper Park, Drum Oak, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. He attempted to enlist in the Canadian Army but was rejected due to having defective eyesight.
Allan Beattie returned to Canada on the American Lines ship St. Louis, which arrived in New York on the 16th June 1916, from Liverpool, and made his way back to his home in Winnipeg, although he later relocated to Toronto, Ontario.
He found work harvesting crops, and later with the Motion Picture Department of the Ontario government. He managed to enlist in the Royal Air Force in 1917, but was discharged as being medically unfit after a very short period. For a number of years he suffered from breakdowns, which were attributed to his ordeal, and the injuries he suffered as a result of the sinking of the Lusitania.
In 1919, his father returned to Canada and re-married; however, Allan did not get on with his step-mother, and he became estranged from his father.
He lodged a claim for compensation shortly after his return to Canada, which was settled in 1925 or 1926. He claimed $5,000 for the loss of his mother, $220 for the loss of his personal effects, and $15,000 for personal injuries suffered. As he was not financially dependent on his mother, his claim for compensation as a result of her death was rejected; however, he was successful with his other claims and was awarded $15,220.00.
Eventually, Allan was employed by The Toronto Star newspaper, and in 1934 he went to the United States of America on their behalf. By 1939, he was living in Miami, Florida, and employed as an editor with
The Miami Post newspaper. He applied for U.S. citizenship, which was granted on the 4th December 1941. Neither he, nor anyone else in the world, knew that three days later Japanese forces would attack Pearl Harbour in Hawaii and force the United States of America into the Second World War.
Allan Martin Beattie never married, and died in Miami, Florida, in April 1968, aged 72 years. He was interred in Flagler Memorial Park in the city
1901 Census of Canada, 1911 Census of Canada, 1921 Census of Canada, 1940 U.S. Federal Census, Cunard , Florida Passenger Lists 1898 – 1963, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, U.S. Naturalization Records, Florida Death Index 1877 – 1998, Canadian Claims Case No. 770, Records, Liverpool Echo, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Lawrence Evans, Winifred Hull, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly