Thomas Johnson ‘Tom’ Houghton was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England, in 1870, the son of John and Jane Houghton. His father, who was a mariner, died when Tom was very young and to support her young family, his mother became a publican in Kirkdale, Liverpool.
He married Mary Ellen Roche in Liverpool on Christmas Day1899, and in 1915, they lived at 38, Stuart Road, Waterloo, Lancashire. He was an active freemason and a member of Ancient Union Lodge No. 203, of Liverpool.
He engaged as Smokeroom Barkeeper in the Stewards' Department on board the
Lusitania at Liverpool on 15th April 1915 at a monthly rate of pay of £6-10s-0d., (£6.50p) and joined the vessel on the morning of 17th April before she left the River Mersey for the last ever time. It was not the first time that he had served on the ship.
The liner crossed the Atlantic without incident and having docked in New York on 24th April 1915, eventually departed from the Cunard berth at Pier 54 on the early afternoon of 1st May, for her return voyage to Liverpool. Six days out of New York, however, on the afternoon of 7th May, she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20, off the coast of southern Ireland. At that time, she was only a matter of hours away from the safety of her home port.
Barkeeper Houghton lost his life as a result of this action, and as his body was not found and identified afterwards, he has no known grave and his name is consequently embossed on the Memorial to the Missing of The Mercantile Marine at Tower Hill, London. Despite his Masonic connections, however, his name is not inscribed on the bronze memorial tablet in the Masonic Hall in Hope Street, Liverpool, which is dedicated to all the freemasons from the Liverpool district who lost their lives in the service of their country from 1914 to 1918. He is, however, commemorated on the family grave in Anfield Cemetery, in Liverpool.
On 8th July 1915, administration of his estate was granted to his widow Mary and his effects amounted to £2,759-2s-4d, (£2,759.11p), which was a considerable amount for an ordinary seafarer in those days. The following month, Mary Houghton was also paid the balance of wages owed to him in respect of his service on the Lusitania’s
last voyage. This was reckoned from 17th April 1915 until 8th May - 24 hours after the liner had gone down.
The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited also granted a yearly pension to Mary Houghton to compensate her for the loss of her husband which amounted to £43-0s-2d. (£43.01p.) which was payable at the rate of £3-10s-1d. (£3.50½p.) per month.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1871 Census of England and Wales, 1881 Census of England and Wales, 1891 Census of England and Wales, 1901 Census of England and Wales, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records Geoff Cuthill, David Irving, Robert O'Brien, Probate Records, Maurice Rigby, UniLiv. PR 13/24, PRO BT 334.