People's Stories

Everyone on the Lusitania's last voyage, including passengers and crew.

Catherine Symington Young Barr

Catherine Symington Young Barr

About Catherine Symington Young

Catherine Symington ‘Kate’ Young was born in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland, on the 29th October 1883, the eldest daughter of Robert and Agnes Young of 16, McKinlay Terrace, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire.

Having finished her own education, she became a teacher at Kilmarnock Academy for the Kilmarnock School Board.  The Kilmarnock Standard was later to say of her for this period of her life: -

She was greatly beloved by the children who came under her care and in the training of whom she was singularly successful, while by her fellow teachers she was held in the highest esteem.  She also gave of her services freely and ungrudgingly among the young in connection with Grange Church and did much good and lasting work in this respect.

On the 16th September 1913, Kate arrived in Quebec, Canada, on board the S.S. Athenia, from Glasgow.  Two days later, she married James Barr, who was also from Kilmarnock, in Toronto, and who had immigrated to Canada in 1910.  James was an engineer and Assistant to the Toronto Waterworks Superintendent.

In the spring of 1915, the couple decided to take their first holiday back home and as a result, James Barr booked second cabin passage for them both on the May sailing of the Lusitania.  Leaving Toronto at the end of April the pair arrived at the Cunard berth, Pier 54 in New York harbour on the morning of 1st May 1915 in time for the liner’s scheduled sailing at 10.00 a.m.  This was delayed until just after mid-day, as she had to embark passengers, crew and cargo from her Anchor Liner Cameronia which the British Admiralty had requisitioned for service as a troop ship at the end of April.

Six days out of New York, on the afternoon of 7th May, the Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-20 off the southern coast of Ireland and only hours away from her home port and both the Barr’s were killed as a result.  Catherine Barr was aged 31 years.

Although James Barr’s body was never recovered and identified, hers was.  Having been recovered from the sea and landed at Queenstown it was taken to one of the temporary mortuaries set up there and given the reference number 115.

Once it had been positively identified, however, it was buried on 10th May 1915 in The Old Church Cemetery, just outside the town, in Mass Grave C., Second Row, Upper Tier, where it lies to this day.

On 18th June 1915, property recovered from the body, which may have aided its identification, was handed over to a Mr. John Barr (junior) presumably Kate Barr’s brother-in-law, of 68, Westgate Road, Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire, on behalf of Kate Barr’s mother at the McKinlay Terrace, address.  It consisted of a lady’s gold keyless Geneva watch, engraved with the initials C.Y.S. an 18 carat gold wedding ring engraved with the initials and date G.B.C.S.T. SEPTEMBER 18TH 1913, an enamelled brooch in silver gilt a long steel chain, a note book with the name and address Mrs. Lamb, 19 Greenbank, Edinburgh in it and a bunch of keys.

The Reverend Andrew Aitken, of the Grange Church would later say of Kate Barr: -

She threw herself wholeheartedly into the work and life of the church.  For many years she was superintendent of the infant Sunday school and did splendid work.  She was the living spirit of health and a sunnier soul never entered flesh.  Her gifts of song and speech were freely used and greatly valued.

Doctor Clark, The Rector of Kilmarnock Academy, concurred when he stated in his weekly address to the scholars after the sinking: -

In the academy, she as Kate Young, had been characterised by a single minded devotion to duty and a sweetness of disposition which shed the radiance of happiness all around.  Hers was the mission to be a help to all who needed help.  Her loss accentuated for the school the great tragedy of the sea, but taught the way of sacrifice along which our Scottish grit was travelling to the doom of Prussian militarism and to the establishment of guarantees of universal good faith.

Of both James and Kate Barr, The Reverend Aitken said: -

It is difficult to realise that they are gone from us; the world is a poorer place for us in their absence; their memory will be green for years to come.  They were “lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided.”

1891 Census of Scotland, 1901 Census of Scotland, Canadian Passenger Lists 1865 – 1935, Cunard Records, Kilmarnock Standard, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv.D92/1/8-10, UniLiv. D92/2/10, UniLiv. D92/2/237, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.

Copyright © Peter Kelly

Catherine Symington Young Barr



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