John Heaney

John Heaney was born in Arklow, County Wicklow, son of William Heaney, a local fisherman.  Like many young boys at that time, he left school at the age of 14 and joined the Royal Navy, lying about his age, saying he was the required 18 years old.  It would be a fateful decision that would cost him his life. The crew of the Laurentic included 6 Arklow men: John Kenny, John Hagan, William Wolohan, John Kavanagh, John Heaney and his cousin, Daniel Heaney.  Only Wolahan and Kavanagh survived.

1901Census_ImageJohnHeaney copy
(1901 Census Return showing John’s family)

By the time of the First World War John had married Katie Gaffney and they had four children, all settling in Arklow.  He would leave them behind when the Laurentic went down in 1917.

(John & Katie’s Marriage Record from February 1908)

Unlike many, John’s body was found, washed ashore in Lough Swilly.  Because of this his family can visit his grave, buried with 71 others in Fahan, County Donegal.

John Heaney’s Service Medals
John Heaney WW1 Medals


6 Comments Add yours

  1. John Heaney was my Grandmother Ellen Heaneys Brother and he joined the Royal Navy at the age of 14… he left the Navy and went to work as a Butcher and got married to Catherine(Katie) Gaffney and when WW1 broke out joined as a Naval Reserve and according to Local Historian most men did that had been in the Navy.


  2. John was one of four Arklow men that lost their lives and not three as stated …. and two Arklow men survived


    1. harrykerr says:

      Thank you for your input Willie. We had already been questioning some of the details we have on John Heaney because we realised there were inconsistencies in different sources and have already been in contact with another relative for verification. The inaccuracy in the number of Arklow men who lost their lives came from a document attached to a well researched family tree on Since posting the piece on John Heaney yesterday I found the alternate figures you mention (sourced in an article in the Independent October 17th 2012, regarding an exhibition in the Arklow Martime Museum). It’s good to have verification of this from you. The Maritime Museum exhibition threw up another inconsistency however – it states that John’s brother Daniel also died in the sinking but other sources such as the 1901 Census doesn’t show a brother by that name, other records show that John and Daniel were cousins, not brothers. With feedback like yours we hope to make this a reliable archive.


  3. Harry i already have been in touch with the Arklow Maritime Museum and rectified that John Heaney and Daniel Heaney were first cousins and they now have the correct information on all the Arklow men ,if you need any more information on the six Arklow men feel free to get in touch regards Willie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. harrykerr says:

      Hi Willie, I’m sending you an email . . . .


  4. Jim Rees says:

    Thank you for posting this photograph of John Heaney. Willie Walker has set the reord straight here in Arklow and we in Arklow Maritime Museum have a small section in our WW1 display about the Laurentic and her Arklow crewmen. Thanks again.


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