Mildred May Morgan is believed to have been born in Canada, (probably in either the provinces of Alberta or Saskatchewan), in 1895. She was married to Donald George Malet Barrow, who immigrated to Canada from Monmouth, South Wales, in 1907, and settled in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, where he met her. They wedding took place at the Church of the Holy Trinity, Medicine Hat, Alberta, on the 18th June 1914.
In the spring of 1915, Donald Barrow decided to return to Wales to enlist in the British Army, and as a consequence, the couple booked as third class passengers on the
Lusitania and were issued with a ticket which was numbered 617. She steamer was scheduled to sail from New York on the morning of 1st May 1915 and having left Maple Creek some time in April, the couple arrived at the Cunard berth at Pier 54 in the city, in time for her 10.00 a.m. sailing. This was then delayed until 12.25 p.m., 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.
Then, six days out of New York, on the afternoon of 7th May, the liner was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-20 as she was steaming past The Old Head of Kinsale in southern Ireland. May Barrow was killed as a result of this action, although her husband had placed a lifebelt upon her, before she jumped into the sea!
Her body was one of the first to be recovered from the sea, however and landed at Queenstown, where it was taken to the makeshift mortuary set up in the yard of the Cunard office at Lynch’s Quay, where it was given the reference number 34. In the early hours of the morning of Saturday 8th May, 1915, it was discovered and identified there by Donald Barrow who noted that there were injuries to her face.
His experiences of the sinking and after were later described in The Western Mail for 11th May 1915: -
He placed a lifebelt round his wife, and sank near to her. He could feel legs and arms grab him under the water.
Later, he floated to an upturned boat, on which were ten live people and four dead ladies. They were picked up at 5.30.
He had identified the dead body of his wife at Queenstown. He added that when she was brought in at five o’clock on Saturday morning, there was no lifebelt on her and the wreckage had marked her face.
The same morning, Donald Barrow sent a telegram to his mother in Merebank, Monmouth which simply stated: -
I AM SAFE, BUT MAY GONE!
Another account gives his mother’s address as 10, The Parade, Monmouth.
Donald Barrow gave a more detailed interview which appeared in the Medicine Hat Daily News on the 22nd June 1915: -
“I thought, of course, of my wife and got to her cabin. She was not there. I got two life-belts, and was running along the deck, when my wife called to me. I calmed her as best I could, and put a life-belt round her, and the other round myself. I led her up to the end of the stern on to the top-deck. There was a boat to be lowered. I parted from my wife and put her in the boat. I said ‘I will get into the sea, and see you later.’ There was no panic just then – just a nice bunch of people. Other women were in the boat. Then an officer said the boat could not be put over the side, and the women (my wife amongst them) had to get out. Because of the angle of the Lusitania that boat could not be safely lowered. We did not think the Lusitania would go down.” His wife and he were standing together when the bow started to go under and the water came up to the funnels. Then the vessel started to slowly slide, then hover and sink. “I handed my wife a rope to scramble down,” he continued, “I said I would jump in. My wife had just touched the water when the boat sank. I went down, and never saw her alive again. I went down apparently a long way. My wife was getting off the rope to let herself into the sea when all disappeared. When I was going down I could feel legs and arms of people grabbing. It was awful. When I came up I looked for my wife. There was no one near me. The water was all froth.
“I got on an upturned, flat bottomed boat with ten other people on it and was afterwards picked up by the Indian Empire and brought to Queenstown.” He waited all night for news of his wife. “She was brought in dead at five o’clock the next morning. I identified her. There was a great mark across her face as if she had been struck by something.”
May Barrow was buried in Mass Grave C, 2nd Row, Lower Tier on 10th May 1915, the day that most of the victims of the sinking were buried, following a long funeral procession which began at Lynch’s Quay, in Queenstown. She was aged 20 years. No property was recovered from her body.
It is presumed that Donald Barrow was present at that funeral.
Cunard Records, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, PRO BT 100/345, Medicine Hat News, Medicine Hat Daily News, South Wales Argus, Staffordshire Weekly Sentinel, Western Mail, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly