|The RMS Titanic|
Finding out Hugh Walter McElroy, chief purser on the RMS Titanic, was a great great cousin of my family was as much of a surprise to me as it was my grandparents. Since finding out about "cousin Hugh" (as my grandmother now calls him) was a surprise, I had to rely on information from the internet. Luckily because Hugh held such a high profile position aboard the Titanic it was easy to find out what he was like. I used websites such as Ancestry.com, Find A Grave, Encyclopedia Titanica, and Irish Central.
Born on October 28 1874, 37 year old Hugh McElroy originally hailed from County Wexford Ireland. His family consisted of his parents, two sisters, and one brother. The extremely religious Roman Catholic family moved to Liverpool when Hugh was 7.
On July 9th 1910, Hugh McElroy married Barbara Ennis, his childhood love. They were married at 3 o'clock on a Saturday at St. Peters Church in Ballymitty, County Wexford, Ireland. They had no children at the time of Hugh's death.
Hugh Walter McElroy pictured with wife Barbara Mary Ennis,
and John Patrick Ennis, nephew of Barbara.
Before McElroy got the Chief Purser position on the RMS Titanic he had worked for the White Star Line for 13 years. McElroy served on ships such as the "Majestic", the "Adriatic", and the "Olympic". It was during his time on the Majestic and the Adriatic that McElroy met captain Edward John Smith, the infamous captain of the Titanic. The two became friends and are photographed together just before the Titanic left on its maiden voyage.
Known for his charm and his good sense of humor aboard the Titanic, McElroy was a liked by all. It was said that his popularity amongst the passengers even rivaled the captains. This was due to his charismatic nature and tendency to personally invite guests to dine with him. McElroy was also said to be a very superstitious man, and had reported having nightmares about the fate of the Titanic.
As Chief Purser, McElroy handled the affairs and storage of the customers belongings aboard the ship. McElroy also was charged with the monetary aspects on the ship as well as record keeping. McElroy even oversaw safe passage for an important clients pet canary who survived the sinking of the Titanic.
Captain and crew of the RMS Titanic. Chief Purser McElroy
is pictured on the right end.
On the morning of April 15th 1912, McElroy was seen multiple times by eyewitnesses helping passengers into lifeboats. It was even reported that he fired a gun into the air twice to scare away two male passengers who had sneaked onto a lifeboat. He was seen about the ship many times over the course of the night, always on the move, lending a hand where he could, and saying goodbye to his fellow colleagues. McElroy was last seen on this fateful night standing next to the ships mail clerk on the boat's deck near the gymnasium entrance.
Hugh McElroy's body was found a week later by the ships crew of the "Mackay-Bennett". His name was misidentified as "Herbert" W. McElroy and he was presumed to be 32. He had the ships keys, 10 pence, 50 cents, and a beloved fountain pen on his person when he died. McElroy was one of the ships most senior officers recovered from the wreckage.
Due to lack of embalming supplies McElroy's body was not returned to shore, and instead was buried at sea. There is a McElroy family grave site at Anfield Cemetery and Crematorium. Hugh is remembered there by the epitaph "Hugh McElroy, son of Richard McElroy, who was lost with his ship RMS Titanic on the 15th of April 1912, aged 37 years, R.I.P."