James Coady was born in Banna, near Fethard, County Wexford, Ireland in 1862. He was a professional seaman in the British Mercantile Marine. In 1915 he lived at 8 Flint Street, Irlam Road, Bootle, Lancashire, the home of his niece Mrs Rose O’Neill. He was unmarried.
He engaged as a fireman in the Engineering Department on board the Lusitania at Liverpool on 12 April 1915, at a monthly rate of pay of £6-10s-0d (£6.50) and joined the ship at Liverpool Pier Head on the morning of 17 April 1915, in time for her last ever voyage out of the River Mersey. It was not the first time that he had served on board the vessel. Another fireman on board, and who was also born in Wexford, was Matthew Murphy. James Coady sometimes boarded at Matthew’s home.
Having completed the liner’s crossing to New York, Fireman Coady was on board on the early afternoon of 1 May, as the
Lusitania left the Cunard berth at Pier 54 on her return voyage to Liverpool. Six days later, on the afternoon of 7 May she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20, within sight of the Old Head of Kinsale in southern Ireland. James Coady lost his life as a result of this action. He was aged 53 years.
His body was recovered from the sea and before it was identified in one of Queenstown's temporary mortuaries it was given the reference number 153 and described as:
"58 years, 5’8”, fireman, clean shaven, full face, grey hair, stout build, no coat, brown sailor trousers."
As it was necessary to bury all the recovered bodies as soon as possible, because they could not be realistically stored in the increasing heat of May, they were all photographed in the temporary mortuaries in Queenstown before being buried. Anxious relatives of those missing were then invited to identify their loved ones through these photographs.
Soon after the sinking, copies of all the photographs were posted in St George's Hall in Liverpool and Coady’s niece Rose O’Neill must have seen them there, for she was convinced that the photograph of body number 153 was that of her uncle and sent Cunard details of him as further proof. These included the fact that he was "clean shaven"
and had "white hair".
By this time however a positive identification had already been made of body number 153 by Second Senior Third Engineer George Little and his body had been buried on 13 May 1915 in the Old Church Cemetery, Queenstown, two miles north of the town, in Mass Grave A, 6th Row, Lower Tier. It lies there to this day.
Despite the fact that he has an identifiable burial site the Commonwealth War Graves Commission was not aware of the fact and after the First World War and commemorated him on the Mercantile Marine Memorial to the Missing at Tower Hill, London.
However, once the author had established beyond doubt that he was buried in The Old Church Cemetery, the Commission agreed to erect a permanent memorial to him where he is buried and this was done in November 1998.
It takes the form of a monument of Irish limestone, sited at the head of Mass Grave B, the centre one of the three. The names of crew members buried in the three mass graves are incised on two black granite panels on the memorial, with a legend in between them, which reads:
"1914 - 1918
IN HONOURED MEMORY
OF THOSE NAMED WHO,
SERVING ON THE
DIED WHEN THE SHIP WAS
SUNK BY ENEMY ACTION
ON 7 MAY 1915
AND ARE BURIED NEARBY"
The name of Fireman Coady is incised on the left hand panel.
The Commission has also stated that should it ever be necessary to renew the panel bearing his name on the Tower Hill Memorial, his name would be omitted from its replacement.
There is a James Cody commemorated on a white marble plaque in St James' Roman Catholic Church in Chestnut Grove, Bootle, Lancashire and it is likely that this is a mis-spelling of James Coady's actual surname. This would indicate that he worshipped at that church. Also commemorated on this plaque is James’ friend, Fireman Matthew Murphy.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, Denise Deighton, UniLiv.D92/B/Part 1, Uni.Liv.D92/1/6-2, PRO BT 100/345, PRO BT 334.