Lieutenant Richard Morgan was born on the 9th of August 1886 in Liverpool, third son of the late Captain Thomas Morgan and Ellen Morgan (née Gorman). Richard’s father was from Drogheda, Co Louth, Ireland, registered in the Irish Merchant Navy, and spent his career in ‘the coasting trade’ mostly between Ireland and Liverpool, where he raised his family.
Richard attended St. Francis Xavier’s R.C. School, Everton and by 1901 was working as a Broker’s Clerk and living with his parents, sister Margaret (Cissie), and brothers Thomas, an engineering apprentice, and Herbert. When the census was taken in April 1911 he was 3rd Mate on board the Queen Eugenie, a merchant ship, at Barry Dock, Glamorgan, Wales. He was studying at the Port of London for his Mates certificate at the time. He gained his Master certificate in November 1912.
At some point he joined the White Star Line where he gained experience and possibly further training until he was commissioned as an officer. His service record confirms that he was a appointed as Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve at the outbreak of WW1 and full lieutenant in the RNR, on the 1st August 1916.
For some of the men who died when the Laurentic sank we have tried to create an impression of them though family stories, obituaries, census returns and other official documents. For others all we have is a faded photograph, perhaps only a Birth Record or Census Entry and little else. These men who died that night lost not only their families, but untold futures.
Alongside the memoriam notices placed in the local newspapers by Richard’s immediate family, another appears from a Miss Gertie Sherry.
“In cherished memory of Lieut. RICHARD MORGAN RNR, who lost his life with HMS Laurentic, January 25 1917. RIP. — Deeply regretted and sadly missed by John (India), and Gertie Sherry, 37 Rawlins Street, Fairfield.”
Liverpool Daily Post, 25th January 1918
[In 1911 Rose Gertrude Sherry, 24yrs, insurance clerk, was living at 37 Rawlins St Fairfield with her 3 older siblings, John a commercial traveller, and two unemployed sisters. It is reasonable to suppose that Richard and Gertie might have had an attachment. If so, she perhaps became one of the thousands of women who did not find a marriageable man after WW1]
A month after the tragedy Richard’s sister received this letter from his shipmate Harold Evans. The letter reveals much more about his character than official records ever could.
“Dear Miss Morgan,
You must forgive my seeming indifference in not answering your letter before now, but I have only been out of hospital a few days.
Let me first express my sincere sympathy for the loss of your brother and take consolation from the fact that he died like a man.
We left the Laurentic about 6pm on Thursday Jan 25th and everybody was in good spirits for the first five hours, but as darkness came on without any sign of help many of the men lost heart although the worst of it was the extreme cold. Your brother played the game all through the period doing his duty without a murmur. Daylight came and still no assistance, no sign of land, no boats – and it was about this time that Mr Morgan passed away peacefully with his head on the tiller, he had frozen to death at his post. I did not move him when I took charge, and he was picked up in the same sitting position.
Many others died at the same time, it seemed as though they had staked all their hopes on daylight, and when that arrived without any sign of help they gave up entirely. Four of the men and myself were picked up about 3pm on Friday Jan 26th and 18 out of the 21 who had passed away, including your brother, were recovered.
He was buried at Mass on Thursday Feb 1st exactly a week from the day the ship was struck – the burial service was conducted by his own church.
Trusting that I have been of some little help to you and hoping my letter does not read too hard hearted.
Harold B. Evans”
“Among the officers who lost their lives by the sinking of the Laurentic we have to note Lieut. Richard Morgan RNR son of the late Captain Morgan, of Liverpool. He was in charge of one of the last boats to leave the doomed ship, and he made brave efforts to save his crew, but himself perished from cold and privation during the night of January 25. He was buried at Buncrana with full naval and military honours.”
The Tablet, 17 Feb 1917 Page 30.
Letter from shipmate Harold B. Evans
Letter of condolence to Richard’s sister, from his teacher Father Parry of St Francis Xavier Church
Richard Morgan is buried in Cockhill Cemetery, Buncrana, County Donegal and is commemorated on the Merseyside Roll of Honour and the WW1 memorial at St. Francis Xavier’s R.C. School, Everton.
WW1 memorial at St. Francis Xavier’s R.C. School, Everton
archive.thetablet.co.uk: The Tablet, 17 Feb 1917 Page 30.
The British Newspaper Archive
We would like acknowledge the contribution of Richard Morgan’s great niece Mairi Rowan (Gorman) who generously shared her family history research and documents.