Sarah Rachel Orr Hale, known as 'Sadie' Hale, was born in Ballymena, County Antrim, Northern Ireland in 1886, the daughter of John F and Matilda J Hale. The family home was at Ierne, Cranmore Gardens, Belfast.
In 1909 Sadie was employed by the Cunard Steamship Company as a typist on the transatlantic steamers. Between voyages she was employed in the Cunard offices in Liverpool.
In 1915 Sadie Hale lived at Mildway House, Blackburne Place, Liverpool, Lancashire, England. She engaged at Liverpool on 13 April as a typist in the Deck Department. Her rate of pay was £1 per week and it is likely that she would also be paid by passengers for doing typing work for them.
She was killed when the vessel was sunk, aged 29 years.
Her body was recovered from the sea, and before it was positively identified it was given the reference number 127 in one of Queenstown's makeshift mortuaries. Following identification it was embalmed then sent to Belfast on 12 May 1915. She was buried the next day in the family grave in the city cemetery in Belfast, in Old City Section B, Grave 22.
The headstone is made from green marble and the inscription on it, in incised letters picked out in gold, reads:
IN LOVING MEMORY OF
DAUGHTER OF THE LATE JOHN HALE, BALLYMENA
WHO LOST HER LIFE THROUGH THE SINKING OF THE LUSITANIA MAY 7TH 1915
From above He drew me over many waters
faith forever unto death"
Despite having a known grave, the records of the Commonwealth War Grave Commission originally listed her as being missing at sea, so she is also commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, London. Since the author's research proved that she has a known grave the Commission has altered its records and stated that should it ever be necessary to replace the bronze panel at Tower Hill, her name will be omitted from its replacement.
Property recovered from her body was sent to her family in Belfast; a wrist watch, a pair of cameo earrings, a gold ring inscribed inside 'MARQUIS OF DOWNSHIRE Obt. 12TH APRIL 1845' and a brooch bearing a horse and jockey.
1915 was a tragic year for the Hale family, for on 7 November, exactly seven months after the
Lusitania was sunk, her only brother Fred also died.
Sadie had written a number of letters which were to be passed on to her family in the event of her death. These included details of her insurance policies and bank savings accounts, and gave instructions as to the disposal of her property. With the exception of a few items, most of her estate was to be divided equally between two nieces, Helen Margaret Taylor and Dorothy Hamill Taylor.
Sadie’s estate amounted to £443-12s-10d, but a legal predicament followed, as to whether or not Sadie’s letters amounted to a will. As a legal will required the maker’s signature to be witnessed by two other persons, her family sought an exemption under a provision of the Wills Act, 1837. Under this Act any soldier in actual military service or any mariner or seaman being at sea could dispose of their personal property without their signature being witnessed. The Judge hearing the case deemed that Sadie was a 'seaman' for the purposes of the exemption, and therefore ruled that her letters amounted to a legal will and her instructions were carried out.
1911 Census of England and Wales, Ray Clelland, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv.D92/1/8-10, UniLiv D92/2/397, Probate Records, PRO BT 334.