David Maxwell Dalrymple was born in Longforgan, Perthshire, Scotland, on the 15th March 1885, the son of Robert and Jessie Dalrymple (née Fyffe). The family resided at Mylnefield Feus, and then 26. Watsons Land, Perth Road, Longforgan, and later at Auburn Terrace, in the village of Invergowrie, near Dundee. He was always a keen sportsman and athlete and at one time played centre forward for Dundee Football Club.
After leaving school, he trained as a lithographer and was employed by the local newspaper, The Dundee Advertiser, in that capacity until 1909, when he had emigrated to the United States of America. He settled in Manhattan in New York City, but found work on the other side of the Hudson River, in Hoboken, New Jersey, where he carried on his trade as a lithographer.
On 29th April 1915, acting on pure impulse, - two days before the Lusitania was due to leave New York, on what became her final ever voyage, he decided to return home on a visit to his native town and as a result, he booked second cabin passage on the vessel, joining her on the morning of 1st May 1915.
Six days later, when the vessel was torpedoed and sunk, he was lucky enough to be counted amongst the survivors, having clung to an upturned boat for some time before being rescued by the Greek steamer Katerina and landed at Queenstown.
Once he had arrived in New York, from Hoboken, he had cabled his parents of his intention to sail on the Lusitania and it wasn’t until the afternoon of Saturday 8th May that their fears for his safety were allayed with the arrival of a telegram from him, sent from Queenstown. He then sent another one when he got to Dublin on his journey home.
When he finally arrived at Invergowrie, he was interviewed by a reporter from local newspaper The Evening Telegraph and Post, still wearing the same suit of clothes and boots which he had had on, when the liner was sunk. His account of his experiences was then published in the edition of the newspaper for Tuesday 11th May 1915. He stated: -
The passengers saw the warning in the newspapers issued by the Germans that the vessel was to be sunk, but the threat did not seem to worry anybody very much.
Time and time again during the voyage across, the matter was referred to, but it generally passed off in a joke, as no one treated it seriously. With the exception of the first day, the weather was delightful, and everybody enjoyed the trip across.
The passengers basked on the decks in the sunshine or played the usual deck games, while not a few enjoyed watching the gambols of the little children, of whom there were a large number on board. Sports were held on the Monday, and on the Wednesday evening, concerts were held for the benefit of the first and second cabin passengers. Collections were taken on behalf of the widows and orphans of seamen and the sum realised - about £36 - among the second cabin passenger people, was the largest which has been taken on board the Lusitania in that saloon. The first cabin people contributed over £100.
Everybody was in the best of humour. A thick fog hid the Irish coast from our view for a while on Friday morning, and the ship slowed down while soundings
were taken every half hour. Shortly before midday the haze suddenly lifted, and glorious sunshine was all around.
They could just see the coast of Ireland like a speck, and Mr. Dalrymple remembered how joyous the sight of the “Ould Counthry” was to an Irishman on board, Patrick Callon (sic) a bricklayer from Chicago, who had left Ireland when a boy of 16, and after an absence of 30 years was returning to his old father.
Mr. Dalrymple pointed out to him the coast line, and Pat was just like a little boy full of joy at the thought of seeing his father and once more on visiting his native country. He was one of the victims of the disaster. Mr. Dalrymple heard from another passenger that he had seen his body floating in the sea with a deep gash in the head.
After partaking of a light lunch, Mr. Dalrymple went up to the top deck and was standing watching some men playing deck quoits. One happened to look round and with startled voice exclaimed - “Is that a torpedo?” Mr. Dalrymple looked in the direction indicated and when he saw the long white line he knew only too well it was a deadly torpedo, as he had seen photographs in the papers.
It would be about 150 yards away and was coming tearing through the water at express speed. He started off himself to get a lifebelt. when there was a bang, a sickening thud followed by an explosion. The Lusitania listed right away. Everybody was taken aback by the startling suddenness, nobody could do anything for a few moments. They were absolutely flabbergasted.
Then suddenly they began to realise the position. Women were running about crying hysterically, and saying, “Oh, what will we do?” The children who had not realised the danger, began to cry when they saw the agonising appeals of their mothers, and truly a terrible din prevailed. The men busied themselves with getting the women into the boats, and the passengers were reassured when an officer informed them that the captain was confident he could take the vessel ashore. “And so he could,” added Mr. Dalrymple, “ for although she had listed, still there was a stability about her which gave one confidence in the captain being able to accomplish the task.”
Apparently the Germans themselves had formed the impression that she was to float, for they fired another torpedo. That settled the fate of the Lusitania. She began to settle down quickly.
Mr. Dalrymple realised that it was best to quit. He dived off the rail, and on reaching the water began to swim away from the doomed vessel as he did not want to be sucked under when she went down. As it was he was pulled down when she sank, but managed to battle against the terrible suction and come up on top.
Six or seven boats had been lowered on the one side, and five on the other, ere she went down. Captain Turner was on the bridge, and the wireless men were sending out messages all round when the Lusitania disappeared. Mr. Dalrymple had secured a lifebelt, and he swam about for half an hour when he saw an
upturned boat. He made for it and scrambled aboard.
The upturned boat was a sanctuary for many souls. Over forty, including seven women were huddled together on the boat, one of the last to be picked up being Lady Allan. Mr. Dalrymple assisted in pulling her on the craft. Dead bodies were floating all around, and it was pitiable to see husbands and wives clutched in each other’s arms as if they had made the resolve to die together. It was no easy matter keeping one’s position on the boat. The wash of the sea made it swing, and one had to look out in order to keep one’s position. No one was washed off.
They clung on to that upturned boat for over three hours when they saw a black speck on the horizon. They thought it was a steamer, and with eager eyes, they watched to see if it was coming towards them. When the people on board realised that the vessel was coming to them, they burst into cheers, and sang “Tipperary”.
The work of taking them aboard the vessel, which was a Greek steamer, was accomplished with difficulty, especially in the case of one of the crew of the Lusitania, who had suffered a terrible injury to his left arm. Indeed, the limb was held by a small piece of skin, which was severed by a doctor who was aboard the steamer which rescued them. The man must have been suffering agonising pain while on the boat, and yet he never murmured. They were all very thankful when they reached Queenstown.
The Irishman Pat Callon referred to by David Dalrymple was 46 year old Patrick Callan, a fellow second cabin passenger, travelling from Chicago, Illinois, who was indeed killed as a result of the torpedoing. Despite his body being spotted floating in the sea, it was never recovered and identified afterwards.
On the 9th June 1915, while still at Invergowrie, he replied to a letter he had received from Mr. Mostyn Prichard, whose brother, Richard Preston Prichard had also been a second cabin passenger on board the Lusitania, but who was counted among the missing and was presumed to have been lost. Mostyn Prichard and his mother had written to many of the survivors seeking information on Richard Preston Prichard, but alas, to no avail. David Dalrymple erroneously thought that Mostyn Prichard was the father of Richard Preston Prichard when he wrote: -
9th June 1915
Your letter of the 7th to hand. I am sorry to state I do not remember having seen your son on the Lusitania. You may be able to get information from Mr. Edward Tarry, 40. Tyndale St., Leciester (sic.), England, or Mr. William Scrymgeour (sic.), 3. Arbroath Road, Dundee, Scotland. Both gentlemen were 2nd
cabin passengers. Had your son been below at the time of the explosion I am certain he could have been on deck before the ship went down. With best wishes
David Dalrymple remained in Invergowrie for a number of months before returning to New York on board the St. Paul on the 15th July 1915.
On the 9th June 1917, he married Mary Simpson in Norwalk, Connecticut, and shortly thereafter, the couple moved to Washington, D.C., where, in 1920, the welcomed a daughter - Shelley Simpson Dalrymple.
The family resided at Georgia Avenue, Washington D.C. for a number of years before they relocated to New York City, where they resided at 429. Sterling Place, Brooklyn, New York City.
David Dalrymple died in Brooklyn, New York City, on the 20th March 1948, aged 63 years.
New York Extracted Death Index 1862 – 1948, 1891 Scotland Census, 1901 Scotland Census, 1910 U.S. Federal Census, 1920 U.S. Federal Census, 1925 New York State Census, 1930 U.S. Federal Census, 1940 U.S. Federal Census, New York Passenger Lists 1820 – 1957, Cunard Records, New York State and Federal Naturalization Records 1794 – 1940, Evening Telegraph, Dundee Advertiser, Dundee Courier, Daily Record, PRO BT 100/345, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly.