Christopher Evans ‘Chris’ McConkey was born in Hillsborough, County Down, Ireland, on the 7th August 1853, the son of John and Bessie McConkey. On completing his education, he travelled to Liverpool where he became an assistant in a grocer’s shop.
On the 7th June 1880, he married Annie Peirce in Dublin, Ireland, and in 1915 they lived at 25, St. Ambrose Grove, Liverpool, Lancashire, England. The couple had nine children.
He was a professional seaman in the British Mercantile Marine and engaged as a second class waiter in the Stewards' Department on board the
Lusitania at Liverpool on 12th April 1915 at a monthly rate of pay of £4-5s-0d., (£4.25p.), and reported for duty three days later at 7 a.m., in time for the liner’s last ever voyage out of the River Mersey.
Having completed the liner’s crossing to New York without mishap, he was still serving as a second class waiter when the liner left New York just after mid-day on 1st May for the return voyage to her home port.
Six days later, he was killed when the Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20 under the command of Kapitänleutnant Walther Schwieger. At that time, she was within sight of the coast of southern Ireland and about 250 miles from her home port. As his body was not recovered and identified afterwards, he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, London.
He is also commemorated on the family grave in Anfield Cemetery, Liverpool, the inscription on the headstone reading: -
CHRISTOPHER EVANS McCONKEY,
WHO LOST HIS LIFE IN THE SINKING OF
THE LUSITANIA 7TH MAY 1915, AGED 62 YEARS
In the archives of the Cunard Steamship Company held in the University of Liverpool, there is a letter sent to Queenstown from the parent company in Liverpool and dated 29th July 1915. It reads as follows: -
The following is a description of 2nd Cabin Steward McConkey, which please record in your identification book, in case the body is recovered :-
2nd Cabin Steward
Scar on Jaw
Last seen on deck as ship went down
Name "Chris" would be found on his clothes
THE CUNARD STEAM SHIP COMPANY LIMITED
Upon engagement, he gave his age as 45 years, although this was not true, but the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission which would have been taken from the original Particulars of Engagement ledger, which McConkey signed on 12th April 1915, naturally still show the same age at death. In view of the age shown on the gravestone inscription and in the above letter, however, the Commission’s information must be considered to be erroneous.
In August 1915, Chris McConkey’s widow Annie received the balance of wages owing to him in respect of the
Lusitania’s final voyage. His service was reckoned from 17th April until 8th May 1915, 24 hours after the liner had foundered. In addition, The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted a yearly pension to his widow to compensate her for the loss of her husband. This amounted to £26-18s-9d. (£26.94p.) which was payable at the rate of £2-4s-11d. (£2.24½p.) per month.
Annie McConkey died in June 1932 aged 69 years.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1911 English Census, 1901 English Census, 1891 English Census, 1871 English Census, Commonwealth War Grave Commission, Cunard Records S1/329, PRO BT 100/345, Maurice Rigby, UniLiv. PR 13/24, PRO BT 334.