George Robert Blackburn was born in Seas End, Surfleet, Lincolnshire, England, in 1875, the son of John Barber and Ann Blackburn (née Benner). His father was a farmer, who by 1901 owned a farm at Haceby, Folkingham, Lincolnshire.
In 1915, he had been working in British Columbia, Canada, as a labourer and decided to return home - perhaps because of the Great War and mindful of his patriotic duty. By this time his widowed father was aged, and being taken care of in the family home by an unmarried daughter and son.
Consequently, he booked third class passage - receiving ticket number 7650 - on the May sailing of the
Lusitania which was scheduled to leave New York for Liverpool at 10.00 a.m. on 1st May 1915. Having left Canada during April, George Blackburn arrived at the Cunard berth at Pier 54 in New York in time for the sailing, which was then delayed until the early afternoon. This was because she had to embark passengers, crew and cargo from the Anchor Liner
Cameronia, which had been requisitioned by the British Admiralty for war service as a troop ship, at the end of April.
The Lusitania finally left port just after mid-day and just six days later, on the afternoon of 7th May, she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20, just off the coast of southern Ireland and only hours away from her home port. George Blackburn did not survive the sinking - one of nearly 250 third class passengers who so perished. He was aged 40 years.
At first, no sign of his body was discovered but then, on 25th July 1915, it was washed up at Teer, in Brandon Bay, County Kerry, about 150 miles around the coast from where the
Lusitania had gone down. For reference, it was given the number 259 for after an immersion in the sea of nearly fifty days, the body was obviously badly decomposed. Having taken documents and property from it, however its finders or the local authorities buried it near where it was found, above the high water mark on the beach. As far as can be ascertained, it lies there today, although the grave is not marked!
The property recovered from it, which consisted of two Canadian Money Orders issued in Victoria B.C., were traced to having been issued to George Blackburn. They were made payable to him, or a Mrs. Stanton, 1034. Burdette Avenue, Victoria, and these were cashed by her. She was George’s landlady, and she forwarded the money and other property to George’s family. Money found on the body was forwarded by the Cunard Steamship Company to George’s sister, Miss Mary Ellen Blackburn, at the Folkingham, address, on 30th August 1915.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1881 Census of England & Wales, 1891 Census of England & Wales, 1901 Census of England & Wales, 1911 Census of England & Wales, 1911 Census of Canada, Canadian Passenger Lists 1865 – 1935, Cunard Records, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv. D/1/8-10, UniLiv D92/2/245, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly