In a memoir of his childhood in Downpatrick “Black Puddings with Slim”, the late Maurice Hayes, respected Irish public servant, talks about the impact of the death of his aunt’s husband Thomas Hugh Craig. “Auntie Lil had lost her husband of a few days to a ship called the Laurentic mined in Lough Swilly and a lonely grave in Buncrana. This had made both sisters confirmed pacifists, and my father was not a warmonger either. So we had additional prayers for peace or for the avoidance of war added to the rosary each night.”
Ship’s steward Thomas Hugh Craig was the eldest child of John Henry and Jane Craig (née Milliken) and was named after his paternal grandfather. His father was born in Dublin and his mother in Belfast. At the time of their marriage on the 5th of March 1884, at St Mary’s church, Donnybrook, Dublin, John Henry was employed as a school master. His address was Her Majesty’s Prison, Galway. The couple settled in Dublin, presumably because John Henry had secured a position as a clerk/warder in Mountjoy prison.
When Thomas was born on the 26th December 1884, John Henry and Jane were living in Mountjoy Prison Cottages on Dorset St., Dublin. His father’s occupation was prison warder. The 1901 census tells us that they were still at Mountjoy Prison Cottages with their growing family: Thomas age 16, John age 14, Elise age 11, Albert age 4 and Florence age 2.
At the age of 32 Thomas Hugh Craig was working as a ship’s steward when he married Lily Nugent, of Killough, County Down, on the 19th of December 1916 at St Patrick’s church in Dublin. Lily was born in Kerry and by the time of the 1911 census was living in Limerick and working as a barmaid for grocer and publican Michael Collins. When Thomas died on the Laurentic, Lily was manageress of the Bangor Arms Hotel, in the fishing village of Killough, County Down, which she seems to have run along with her sister Margaret.
The Craig family suffered a series of tragedies within the space of two short years. After the loss of Thomas in the sinking of the Laurentic his brother John Henry was killed in action in France in September 1917 and his father died of acute bronchitis at his home, 25 Mountjoy Prison Cottages, less than a year later, in August 1918. On April 12th 1919 his younger brother Albert died of tuberculosis when he was just 23 years of age.
In 1937 Thomas’ widow Lily moved to the market town of Downpatrick with her sister Margaret Hayes, Maurice Hayes mother, and her family. There they ran Denvir’s Hotel, an old coaching in on English Street.
Thomas Hugh Craig’s body was recovered. He is buried in Cockhill cemetery, Buncrana, County Donegal.
Irish Independent Monday 5th February 1917
“Mrs T. Craig, manageress, Bangor Arms Hotel, Killough, married just before Christmas, has been widowed by the Laurentic disaster, her husband, whose father resides at Harold’s Cross, Dublin, having been one of the crew.”
Belfast Telegraph 9th July 2018, Lindy McDowell
From an interview with the daughter of Dr Maurice Hays
“When the definitive history of our Troubles comes to be written, the late Dr Maurice Hayes will be remembered as a clarion voice of reason and reconciliation. Voted European Person of the Year in 2003, he served as Northern Ireland Ombudsman, Boundary Commissioner, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services and, for two terms, as an independent in the Irish Senate”.
Ireland’s memorial records 1914-1918: : being the names of Irishmen who fell in the great European war, 1914-1918. Early Printed Books, Trinity College Library, Dublin.
Black Puddings with Slim: A Downpatrick Boyhood, by Maurice Hayes