People's Stories

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

Sydney James Shann

Sydney James Shann

About Sydney James

Sidney James Shann was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, on the 18th May 1882, the son of Benjamin and Christina Shann.  In 1909, he married Agnes McQuarrie in Liverpool, and they lived, curiously enough, at 7, Lusitania Road, Walton, Liverpool, with their three children – twins Sidney Benjamin and Agnes Rose, and Archibald McQuarrie.

He engaged as a third class waiter in the Stewards' Department on board the Lusitania on 12th April 1915 at a monthly rate of pay of £4-5s-0d., (£4.25p.), and reported for duty on the morning of 17th April.  It was not the first time that he had sailed on the vessel.

Three weeks later, with the Cunarder on her return leg to Liverpool, he was killed following her torpedoing.  As his body was not amongst those recovered and identified afterwards, he has no known grave.

As a consequence, he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, London.  He was aged 32 years at the time of his death, although when he signed on for the voyage, he stated that he was 30!

In August 1915, Agnes Shann received the balance of wages owing to her husband in respect of his service on the Lusitania from 17th April 1915 until 8th May; 24 hours after the ship had foundered.  She also received £300 compensation.  In addition, The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited also granted her an annual pension which amounted to £54-9s-8d. (£54.48½p.), payable at the rate of £4-10s-10d. (£4.54p.) per month.

After his death, his mother Mrs. Christina Shann wrote to the Cunard Steamship Company seeking assisted passage to New York.  She explained that she had been widowed for 10 years and her only other son, on whom she had been dependant, had died in 1913.  Following his death, she had been supported, in part, by Sidney and his family.  As she was now alone in England, with no means of support, her brother and sister in New York had invited her to make her home with them, and she had decided to accept their offer.

As Mrs. Christina Shann was not a survivor of the Lusitania sinking, she was not entitled to assisted passage, and therefore the company applied for financial aid to The Lusitania Relief Fund, on her behalf.  This fund had been set up immediately after the liner had been sunk, by The Lord Mayor of Liverpool and other local businessmen, to help second and third class passenger survivors and the relatives of those who had perished.

Agnes Shann was already being supported financially under the Workmen’s Compensation Scheme, however, as her husband had been a crew member, but the Relief Fund awarded Christina Shann a once-and-for-all payment of £5-0s-0d. and arranged for The Cunard Steam Ship Company to give her an assisted passage to New York.

On 13th August 1915, Mrs. Christina Shann collected her cheque, in person, from Liverpool Town Hall and made her way to the Cunard offices.  She was most anxious to sail on the following day, however, she was persuaded to wait until the following Saturday, when she was offered more comfortable facilities on board the Saxonia.

By the time that the Tower Hill register had been compiled in the early 1920s, Agnes Shann had moved to 25, Dunluce Street, Walton, Liverpool.

Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1891 Census of England and Wales, 1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Birkenhead News, Liverpool Record Office, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, UniLiv D92/2/328, UniLiv. PR 13/24, PRO BT 334.

Sydney James Shann



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