Michael ‘Mick’ Stephen Sheil was born in Salford, Lancashire, England, on the 20th September 1881, the son of Michael and Mary Ann Sheil.
In 1907, he married Sarah Jane Edwards and the couple resided with Sarah’s family at 299, Stanley Road, Liverpool. he was a professional steward in the British Mercantile Marine.
He signed on as a saloon steward in the Stewards' Department on board the
Lusitania at Liverpool, on 12th May 1915, at a monthly rate of pay of £5-10s-0d., (£5.50p.), and reported for duty on the morning of 17th May, before she left for her final voyage to New York.
He survived the sinking three weeks later and having been rescued from the sea, he was taken to Queenstown before eventually being repatriated to Liverpool. In August 1915, he was paid the balance of wages owing to him, £5-8s-8d, (£5.43p.), his official discharge from the vessel being counted as effective from the morning after the sinking.
Mick Sheil continued to serve on ocean liners for many years until he ‘swallowed the anchor’ and took up a shore-based job as the licensee of a Liverpool city centre hotel.
In an interview with reporter George Harrison of The Evening Express on 26th May 1955, Mick Sheil described his memories of that fateful day, forty years earlier: -
‘We had just finished serving lunch when the torpedo hit us. The day was glorious, with a dead calm sea and the Irish coast in sight. I had just told one of the boys to see that the glasses used at lunch were polished ready for the dinner sitting. Next moment, there was chaos. The dining-room practically collapsed around my ears. I fought up through the smoke and dust to the deck.’
‘Everybody seemed to be steady and calm. There was a bit of natural commotion among the women passengers who had their children with them, but it was not a panic. Then inside minutes, the Lusitania began to sink by the bows. The deck slanted up at a horrible degree ..... I did what I could for the passengers. We all did.’
‘But it was so very sudden. In no time, our stern was 90ft. out of the sea as she began to nose-dive, ..... so I jumped over.’
In the jump, he broke some ribs, but didn’t realise until a couple of days later. He continued: -
‘Two of us found an overturned lifeboat and somehow or other we managed to right it, and we baled it out as best we could. Then we started picking up the men and women and kiddies in the water.’
‘My pal Teddy Bond, another steward from Merseyside was not able to swim far enough away from the ship as she finally sank. He was sucked down the funnel when she went down.’
Then there was an explosion as the sea reached her boilers and guess what ..... Teddy was blown right out of the funnel again and we picked him up.
The interview was given in The Royal Court Hotel, in Queen Square, Liverpool city centre, where Mick was licensee for many years after retiring from the sea. Despite its title, it was always known locally as Mick Sheil's.
Mick Sheil died in Liverpool on the 4th February 1970, aged 88 years.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1891 Census of England and Wales, 1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Cunard Records, Evening Express, Richard McAleavey, Tom McDonough, PRO BT 100/345, PRO BT 350.