Mary Agnes Joyce was born in Farnworth, Lancashire, England, in 1892, the daughter of Patrick and Annie Joyce (née O’Toole). Her father and her siblings, as they completed their education, found work in the local cotton mills, as did Mary herself. The family home as at 5. Kent Street, Farnworth.
In June 1909, she arrived in New York City on the Arabic, having boarded at Liverpool, and made her way to the home of her sister, Elizabeth Ellen Joyce, who lived in Harrison, New Jersey. Within a short period, she had moved to Kearny, New Jersey, where she found work in a local cotton mill. She resided at Maple Street, where presumably she met Samuel James Ferguson, who resided on the same street, and who had been born in Kearny. The couple married in 1912, thus Mary became a citizen of the United States of America. Her husband was a mechanic, and in early 1914, the couple welcomed their first child, a son they named Edward.
In the spring of 1915, Mary Ferguson decided to cross the Atlantic Ocean to England, to visit relatives in the United Kingdom, no doubt to introduce her son to them, and consequently she booked third class passage for them both on the May sailing of the
Lusitania from New York to Liverpool.
They arrived at the Cunard berth at Pier 54 in New York on the morning of 1st May 1915 in time for the liner’s scheduled 10 o’clock departure and then had to wait until just after mid-day before she actually left port. This was because she had to delay her sailing to embark passengers, crew and cargo from her Anchor Liner the S.S.
Cameronia, which had been requisitioned for war use by the British Admiralty at the end of April.
Then, six days out of New York, on the afternoon of 7th May, when she was steaming past The Old Head of Kinsale in southern Ireland, the
Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-20. At this stage of her voyage, she was only about fourteen hours away from the safety of her home port.
Both mother and son were lost as a result of this action and although Edward Ferguson’s body was later recovered from the sea and buried locally, that of Mary Ferguson never was. As a result, she has no known grave.
She was aged 23 years at the time of her death.
On 21st February 1924, Samuel Ferguson was awarded $10,000.00 by the Mixed Claims Commission for the loss of his wife and son. He later remarried, and died in 1953.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, New Jersey Marriage Index 1901 – 2016, 1901 Census of England & Wales, 1910 U.S. Federal Census, New York Passenger Lists 1820 – 1957, Cunard Records, Mixed Claims Commission Docket No. 46, 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.