The impact of the sinking of the Titanic was felt more in Ireland than anywhere else. The connection of the White Star Lines famous ship with Ireland goes much further than just being built in Belfast. The large emigration rate around that time ensured that Irish people were well represented on the passenger list on the Titanic. The vast majority of these came from the southern counties like Limerick, Kerry and Cork. There were 113 third class, seven second class and four first class passengers departed from Deepwater Quay in Cobh for the great liner anchored off Roches Point.
Hailing from Slane, in Co.Meath, thirty five year old James Robert McGough ( born July 4th 1876) was an exceptional case in more ways than one. From a family of six sons and one daughter he moved with some of the family to America when young and became a highly successful executive. A buyer with Strawbridge & Clothier department store he was one of only four Irish people who enjoyed the luxury of first class aboard the Titanic.
McGough boarded lifeboat No.7 – the first to be launched from the endangered liner, perhaps due to the advise of Mr. Andrews, the ships designer, with whom he was friends and was sharing the finery of first class. James McGough was eating in the first class diningroom when the ship struck the iceberg.
In an affidavit McGough submitted to the U.S. enquiry into the disaster he detailed how ignoring ship personel advice saved his life. The steward Mr. Dodd, of whom he asked the question ‘Is there any danger?’ answered ‘Not in the least’. Describing the total disbelief amongst the passengers, which led to his own lifeboat being rowed only a short distance from the ship, he wrote: ‘We rested on our oars, but after realising Titanic was sinking, we rowed away for about half a mile, afraid that the suction would draw us down’.
After returning to work James R. McGough was paid 612 dollars for insured property loast aboard. He married and was eventually widowed. The Wall St. crash of 1929 saw McGough, now 53, unemployed. By 1935, now living in Philadelphia, he had developed cancer and eventually died on July 24th 1937 aged 61. His death certificate confirmed his Irish birth, and that of his parents Thomas McGough and Catherine Dowdell.