John Blackshaw was born in St. Thomas, Elgin County, Ontario, Canada, on the 21st June 1913, the son of John and Alice Blackshaw (née Hesketh). The family home was at 15. Barwick Street, St. Thomas.
In the spring of 1915, his mother decided to return to England, presumably to introduce young John to her family. Consequently, she booked third class passage for the two of them on the
Lusitania’s May sailing from New York to Liverpool.
Having left St. Thomas some time in April, mother and son boarded the vessel at the Cunard berth at Pier 54 in New York, with ticket number 7650, in time for her scheduled 10.00 a.m. sailing on 1st May, but they had to wait until the early afternoon until the liner actually sailed. This was because she had to embark cargo passengers and some of the crew from the Anchor Lines vessel Anchor Lines vessel the S.S.
Cameronia, which the British Admiralty had requisitioned as a troop ship at the end of April.
Then, six days out of New York and only hours away from her destination, the
Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-20, within sight of the coast of southern Ireland. Both John Blackshaw and his mother were killed as a result of this action and as neither of their bodies was ever recovered from the sea and identified afterwards, neither has a known grave. John Blackshaw was almost two years old!
Once the news of the disaster became known in England, his father sent a description of him and his mother to the Cunard office in Queenstown in the hope that it might match the description of those bodies already recovered, but this turned out to be a forlorn hope!
The cable he sent stated: -
Any news of Mrs. Blackshaw? Green dress (speckled) gold locket and chain, wedding ring and gents signet ring.
Also child (male) 2 years, wearing ring with imitation pearl on 3rd finger of the left hand. (No1 breeches) red coat.
It was not uncommon in the early years of the twentieth century to state an age as that of the next birthday.
Ontario Canada Births 1869 – 1913, Cunard Records, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv. PR13/6, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly