Robert William Crooks was born in Brantford, Brant County, Ontario, Canada, on the 11th September 1876, the son of Henry Peter Simmons and Welthy (sometimes spelt as ‘Wealthy’) Ann Crooks (née Chamberlain). His father was a shoemaker and his mother a shirt maker. Robert was the youngest of six known children and the family home was at 151, Darling Street, Brantford.
He was a commercial buyer of silk and dress goods and in September 1902, he married Agnes Bridget Hargadon, who was also from Brantford, and there were no children as a result of the marriage.
Robert worked for many years for Lord & Taylor of New York City, and then for the Murray-Kay Company, a Toronto-based company. His annual salary in 1915 was $3,000.00, and he lived with his wife in an apartment in Toronto.
In the spring of 1915, he had business in Europe and having booked a saloon ticket (number 10865) on the May sailing of the
Lusitania, through local agents A. F. Webster & Son, of Toronto, he left the city and arrived at the Cunard berth at Pier 54 in New York harbour in time for her 10.00 a.m. sailing on 1st May.
Once he had boarded, he was escorted to his accommodation, which was in room B107, under the personal supervision of First Class Bedroom Steward Thomas Dawes who came from Walton, a district of Liverpool. The liner’s sailing was then delayed until the early afternoon as she had to embark passengers, crew and cargo from the Anchor Liner
Cameronia, which had been requisitioned by the British Admiralty for war service as a troop ship, at the end of April.
The Lusitania finally left the port at 12.27 p.m. and just six days later, on the afternoon of 7th May, she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20 off the coast of southern Ireland and only hours away from her Liverpool home port. Robert Crooks was killed as a result of this action. He was aged 38 years.
His body was recovered from the sea, however; and having been landed at Queenstown, it was taken to one of the temporary mortuaries set up there and given the reference number 93. Once it had been positively identified, it was taken by the Jewish Burial Society and buried in The Jewish Cemetery at Mount Desert, just north of Cork City.
Following representations from his widow, his remains were disinterred and sent to Liverpool for shipment to New York on the S.S.
Saxonia, on 19th June. From there, they were forwarded to his home town of Brantford, and interred in Greenwood Cemetery on the 1st July 1915.
Later, Queenstown undertakers Moynihan’s sent a bill for their services of £23-0s-0d, to Cunard, which was passed on to a family friend, Mr. A. Leonard Lyons of 15/15a Old Cavendish Street, Oxford Street, London.
Property taken from the body, which had probably aided its identification, was also sent, at Mrs. Crooks’ request, to the same address. It consisted of fifteen British half sovereigns, two $20 bills, three $10 bills, three $5 bills, some British and Canadian silver and copper coinage, a gold watch and chain, a gold locket inscribed with the initials
R.W.C., a demand draft for £100-0s-0d., some American papers and a Canadian passport.
Bedroom Steward Dawes, who had looked after Robert Crooks in room B107, also perished in the sinking and never saw his Walton home again.
Agnes Crooks lodged a claim with the Canadian Commission, seeking compensation for the loss of her husband and the possessions he had with him when the liner sank. Her case was ruled on some years later and she was awarded her claim of $200.00 for the loss of his personal effects, and whereas she claimed $60.000.00 for the loss of his life, the Commission only awarded her $20.000.00.
Agnes Crooks never remarried, and died in Brantford on the 23rd May 1961, aged 80 years.
Ontario Canada Births 1858 – 1913, 1881 Census of Canada, 1891 Census of Canada, 1901 Census of Canada, 1911 Census of Canada, Cunard Records, Canadian Claims Case No. 773, The Brantford Daily Expositor, PRO 22/71, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv.D92/1/2, UniLiv. PR13/6, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly.