Michael Connolly was born in Rathgoonaun, Buncrowey, County Sligo, Ireland, in 1868, one of eight children of James and Bridget Connolly (née Doherty). His father was a farmer.
Some time prior to 1905 he had immigrated to the United States of America, settling in New York, and became a naturalized United States citizen. He never married, and resided with his brother, James, who was three years younger than him, and James’ family. Michael actively contributed financially to the maintenance of James’ family, the two brothers being employed as street-railway motormen, with an annual salary of $1,250.00.
In the spring of 1915, Michael decided to return home to visit his two widowed sisters, bringing some modest gifts with him. Consequently, he booked third class passage on the May sailing of the
Lusitania which was scheduled to sail from New York to Liverpool on the morning of 1st May 1915. He thus arrived at the Cunard berth at Pier 54 in New York in time for her 10 o’clock sailing, only to have his departure delayed until the early afternoon, because the Lusitania had to take on cargo, passengers and some crew from the
Cameronia, which had been requisitioned by the British Admiralty for war work as a troop ship at the end of April. At 12.25 p.m., the steamer slipped her moorings and sailed out into the North River and then into the Atlantic.
Then, just six days later, on the afternoon of the 7th May, she was torpedoed and sunk within sight of the southern Irish coast and only hours away from her home port, by Kapitänleutnant Walter Schwieger in command of the German submarine
Michael Connolly was one of the many third cabin passengers who lost their lives as a result of this action, and as his body was never recovered from the sea and identified afterwards, he has no known grave.
He was aged 47 years at the time of his death, although the age given for him in Cunard Records was 39 years.
James Connolly later filed a claim for compensation for the loss of his brother and his personal belongings. The Mixed Claims Commission awarded him the sum of $2,500.00 for the loss of his brother, and a further $974.00 for the loss of Michael’s personal property, and the value of the gifts he was bringing to his sisters.
1901 Census of Ireland, 1910 U.S. Federal Census, 1911 Census of Ireland, Cunard Records, Mixed Claims Commission Docket No. 495, PRO BT 100/345 Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly.