A schoolchild in the 1930s recorded that Patrick McGough of Lobinstown survived the sinking of the Titanic by dressing as a woman and getting into one of the lifeboats. According the schoolchild he received a hero’s welcome when he visited his home area a year after the disaster in 1913. Like all good stories there is a grain of truth in it.
James Robert McGough of Philadelphia, a first class passenger, boarded the Titanic at Southampton on Wednesday, 10th April 1912. His first class ticket, probably paid for by his employer, cost £26 5s 9d and McGough shared cabin E-25 with John Flynn, another buyer. About 11.40 McGough felt the collision with the iceberg and he ran to the porthole where he saw the ice close against the side of the ship. Chunks of ice fell through the window. He gathered his clothes, watch and money and quickly dressed. A steward re-assured them that there was no danger and they should go back to bed. Ignoring this advice they woke the lady opposite and suggested she get up at once and get dressed. McGough rushed up to the deck where he saw the iceberg towering fifty feet above and estimated that the ice stood about 150 feet out of the water. The two men made their way up to the promenade deck where they were ordered to put on their lifebelts. They had to return to their cabins for the lifebelts but returned to the top deck. McGough heard Captain Smith order that the air chambers be examined. The captain ordered the hatches of the steerage to be fastened down to prevent hysterical passengers rushing to the deck and increasing the panic. Women and children were being put in lifeboats and as there was a reluctance among passengers to leave the apparent safety of the ship and get into the small lifeboats one of the ship’s officers pushed McGough into a boat saying “You are a big fellow, get into the boat.” McGough said he led the way down the ladders in order to encourage the women to leave the ship. McGough was put in Lifeboat 7 which was the first boat launched at 12.45 a.m. Although having a capacity for sixty five people the boat only contained twenty eight people and five more were picked up from another boat. Initially the passengers expected to return to the Titanic but once they realised it was sinking they rowed away from the ship. Some of the women in the boat objected to the boat returning to the ship to pick up passengers in the water. McGough said he would never forget the screams that came from the sinking ship. They watched as the lights of each section went out until the ship slid below the waves at 2.20 a.m. The sea was calm but it was freezing cold.
Shortly before six o’clock they saw the lights of a ship approaching. Rescued by the Carpathia James telegraphed his family in Philadelphia “McGough 708 York St Phila Pa Safe feeling good don’t worry on board mpa. Jim.” When the Carpathia docked in New York McGough was the first passenger to land where he was greeted by his wife and three brothers. His wife, Mary, spotted him first and she threw herself through the police lines to greet him with an embrace. They celebrated in a nearby hotel from which he sent a telegraph to his mother telling her he was safe. McGough was later paid 612 dollars for insured property lost aboard the Titanic. He testified at an inquiry into the sinking.
James McGough was born in June 1875 at Lobinstown, the son of Thomas McGough and his wife, Catherine, nee Dowdall. One of a family of eight boys and one girl James was baptised at Lobinstown on the 27th June 1875. He later gave his date of birth as 4th July but like many of his time not knowing the actual date of his birth he gave the date of a close holiday. Many Irish in America gave their date of birth as 17th March. His family or a large part of the family seems to have emigrated to America. James arrived in Philadelphia from Liverpool in May 1893. His father, a horse shoer/blacksmith, arrived in 1895 with the rest of the family, arriving though Ellis Island. By 1900 his father, mother and seven siblings were living at Carpenter Street, Philadelphia and stated they had all emigrated to America in 1896. Many of the family members were unemployed for more than twelve months at that date. James McGough applied to become a US citizen in 1908 giving his occupation as clerk. At that time his place of birth was recorded as Mandistown, between Drumconrath and Ardee. In 1912 James was still living in Philadelphia at 708 West York Street and had married Mary Hughes. Three of his brothers and his mother lived nearby. By 1910 James McGeogh was a buyer for the Philadelphia department store, Strawbridge & Clothier.
Having survived the Titanic James returned regularly to Europe as part of his job as a buyer. In 1914 he travelled aboard the Lusitania arriving into New York on 17 April 1914. In 1918 when he registered for the draft he listed as his employer as Gimbel Brothers. James travelled to Europe every one or two years after World War I. He was later widowed and it would appear that the couple had no children. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 resulted in him being unemployed. James died in 1937 of cancer aged 61 and was buried in the plot of his father-in-law. His burial is not recorded on a marker.