Robert Arnott was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1874 of Irish parents. Nothing is known of his early life, except that his father had died and his mother had remarried. She became Mrs. Mary Jane Scott, of Seapatrick, Banbridge, Co. Down. Robert’s step-father, Archibald Scott, had himself been a widow, with children, and as both he and Robert’s mother had children themselves, Robert had a number of half-brothers and sisters, and also step-brothers and sisters. It is believed he had one brother named James.
Robert had gone to the United States of America in 1905, embarking on the
S.S. Columbia on the 18th November, arriving in New York harbour on the 28th November, and eventually found himself employed as a dyer with the Barbour Flax Spinning Company, Marshall Hill, Newark, New Jersey. He gained promotion to foreman dyer, and from December 1912, was earning $17.00 per week. He boarded at Joseph Adamson’s at Toppin Street, Kearney.
In early 1914, at the age of 40 years, Robert returned from America to get married to a girl from his locality, Mary Jane Seawright, who was employed as a “warper” (linen worker) at Smyth’s Weaving Company in Banbridge. A week after the wedding, Robert left the family home in County Down to return to Kearney. He boarded the Caledonia at Londonderry on the 21st March, and disembarked at New York harbour on the 31st March.
In the spring of 1915, Robert Arnott decided to return home - possibly because of the war, or maybe family reasons, and consequently, he booked second cabin passage for himself on the
Lusitania and joined her at the Cunard berth in New York before she sailed out into the North River for the last time, on 1st May 1815. It is reported that he had withdrawn $375.00 from his bank account a few days before sailing.
Just six days later, he was killed after the liner was torpedoed and sunk and as no trace of his body was ever found and identified afterwards, he has no known grave. He was aged 41 years.
In the summer of 1915, his widow applied for financial assistance to The Lusitania Relief Fund, which had been set up after the disaster by The Lord Mayor of Liverpool and other worthy dignitaries to help those survivors and relatives of the dead financially distressed by the sinking. Her application was based on the grounds that her husband had left her a sum of money when he had gone to America, but she had received nothing from him thereafter, although she was, in fact, working herself.
Bearing these facts in mind, the committee administering the fund gave her a once and final payment of £10-0s-0d.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1901 Census of Ireland, 1910 U.S. Federal Census, Cunard Records, New York Passenger Lists 1820 - 1957, Liverpool Record Office, PRO BT 100/345, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, UniLiv. D92/2/6, D92/2/155, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly