William Dale was born in Tullinskay, Castledawson, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland, on the 18th October 1881, the son of Thomas and Margaret Jane Dale (née McMaster). He was believed to be the youngest of ten children, and his family were farmers, although they did have a family business, run by his brother Thomas Dale, which was the textile firm of Dale Mills, of Tullinskay.
On completion of his initial education, William moved to Dublin, where he began studying civil engineering, and then relocated to Galway where he graduated at Queens College, Galway, which changed its name to University College Galway in 1908.
On the 26th January 1907, William boarded the Laurentian at Glasgow, and disembarked at Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, on the 7th February. His intended destination was Chicago, Illinois, in the United States of America, where he either hoped to find work, or might have been offered work.
It isn’t known for how long he stayed in Chicago, but he then moved to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and found a position as an assistant engineer in the sewers branch of the Toronto Works Department, and his last known address in the city was at 1. Moss Park Place. He was also actively involved in the men’s brotherhood of the Cook’s Presbyterian Church.
He had returned to Castledawson at least once for a holiday, and then, in early 1915, he decided to return again for another holiday, and in particular to visit a sister who was seriously ill. Accompanied by an invalid friend, Mr. Albert Thompson, who was also a native Irishman, and also lived in Toronto, he booked as a second cabin passenger on the
Lusitania, out of New York, on 1st May 1915.
Having left Toronto some time in April, presumably by rail, the pair arrived at the Cunard berth at Pier 54 on the west side of New York City on the morning of 1st May 1915 in time to board the liner for her scheduled 10.00 a.m. departure.
This was then postponed until the early afternoon whilst the liner loaded cargo and took on board passengers and crew from the Anchor Liner the S.S.
Cameronia which the British Admiralty had requisitioned as a troop ship. Then, six days later, on the afternoon of 7th May, the
Lusitania was torpedoed by the German submarine U-20, twelve miles off The Old Head of Kinsale in southern Ireland and sank within eighteen minutes. At that stage of her voyage, she was a mere twelve or fourteen hours away from her Liverpool destination.
Both friends were killed as a result of this action and although the body of Albert Thompson was recovered and identified later, that of William Dale never was. William Dale was aged 33 years.
Although the voyage had tragic consequences for William Dale, he could have been killed earlier, for in 1914, he had booked a passage home on the liner
Empress of Ireland, but was prevented from joining her at the last moment. The
Empress collided with the Norwegian collier Storstad in the St. Lawrence Seaway and sank with the loss of over 1,000 lives.
Administration of his estate was granted to his brother, John Dale, who was described as being a farmer, on the 28th March 1916. His effects amounted to £175-0s.-0d. (£175.00p).
Ireland Civil Registration Births Index 1864 – 1958, 1901 Census of Ireland, Canadian Passenger Lists 1865 – 1935, U.S. Border Crossings from Canada to U.S. 1895 – 1960, Cunard Records, PRONI Will Calendar Index 1858 – 1965, Belfast Telegraph, Belfast Newsletter, Larne Times, Portadown News, Mid-Ulster Mail, PRO BT 100/345, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, Graham Maddocks, Ivor Hawe (Castledawson Life), Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly.