Christina Campbell Duncan was born in Kirkdale, Liverpool, Lancashire on the 8th March 1879, the daughter of Andrew, who was a professional Ship’s Steward, and Jessie Duncan.
In 1904, she married Basil George Rennie in Liverpool, but he immigrated to Canada in 1909 and it would appear that the couple were estranged from one another, although they did not divorce. Christina lived at 19, Ferndale Road, Bootle, Lancashire, with her married sister, Mrs. Jessie Allerton, and her family. She was a professional stewardess in the Mercantile Marine and served mostly on the trans-Atlantic route, having first served with The Cunard Steam Ship Company in 1910. She used her maiden name when working, thus suggesting the failure of her marriage.
On 16th April 1915, she engaged at Liverpool, as a stewardess in the Stewards' Department on board the
Lusitania at a monthly rate of pay of £4-0s-0d. and reported for duty at 7 o’clock the following morning, before the liner left the River Mersey for the last time, on her voyage to New York. Stewardess Duncan’s previous ship had been the Anchor Liner
Having arrived safely in New York, the Lusitania began her return leg to Liverpool on the early afternoon of 1st May 1915 and six days out, when she was within sight of The Old Head of Kinsale on the southern coast of Ireland, she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-20. At that time, she was only 250 miles way from the safety of her home port.
There were 22 stewardesses on board at the time and although nine were saved, thirteen were lost. Christina Duncan was one of those who was lost. She was aged 36 years at the time, although when she engaged, she stated that she was only 31!
Some time after the sinking, Cunard’s office in Queenstown was sent a description of the stewardess which stated: -
DUNCAN CHRISTINA STEWARDESS 19, FERNHILL (sic) RD., BOOTLE. gold ring single diamond gold wristlet watch & bracelet. fair hair, goOd looking, 33 years. name on belt.
Despite this full description, (which gave another wrong version of her age), it did not match any of the unidentified female corpses that had been recovered and it was eventually concluded that she had no known grave.
She is, therefore, commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing of the Mercantile Marine, at Tower Hill, London.
In August 1915, having been presumed drowned, she was officially discharged from the
Lusitania’s last voyage and her relatives were given the balance of pay owing to her. This was in respect of her service from 17th April until 8th May 1915; 24 hours after the great liner had foundered.
On the 16th July 1915, probate of her will was granted to her sisters, Mrs. Jessie Allerton (wife of Thomas Henry Allerton) and Miss Margaret Marian Rankin Duncan. Her effects amounting to £252-16s-6d. (£252.82½p). Although it is stated in Probate Records that she was the wife of Basil George Rennie, she did not mention him in her will!
Basil George Rennie settled in Nelson, British Columbia, Canada, where he was employed as a civil servant. On the 19th April 1916, he enlisted as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 225th Bn. of the Canadian Army, having previously served for four years in the King’s Liverpool Regiment in Liverpool, and then on the 29th April 1916, he married Elizabeth Helen Kennedy, before joining his regiment. Although details of his war service are unknown, he did go to Europe, and did survive the war before returning to Canada in 1920. He died on the 11th February 1932 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, aged 50 years.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1881 Census of England and Wales, 1891 Census of England and Wales, 1901 Census of England and Wales, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv.D92/1/1., Probate Records, UniLiv.PR13/6, PRO BT 334.