The following biography was written by Gail Brumfitt, who, I am sure you will agree, has managed to do a remarkably thorough job of reconstructing the genealogy and life-story of someone who hitherto had been a complete mystery to me, having been named in the Hoylake and West Kirby Advertiser’s 1922 list and in the Book of Remembrance, but in no other obvious source.
Ralph Troupe Moodie
This is an unusual case compared to others appearing on this blog in that Ralph did not serve in the military during the Great War. He was a civilian. He has been included as he was mentioned in the Hoylake and West Kirby Advertiser of 22nd December 1922 and in the Book of Remembrance because he drowned when the RMS “Lusitania” was torpedoed off the Old Head of Kinsale as he gave his life jacket to a woman.
Ralph was the youngest son of Edwin Ramsay Moodie (1824-1881) and Helen Maria Moodie (née Warriner 1838-1929). His siblings were Edwin Ramsay Moodie (1867-1954); Robert Pomeroy Moodie (1868-1890); and his twin sister Flora Center Moodie (1870-1969).
His father, Edwin, was born in Montrose, Angus (Forfarshire) Scotland, the son of Robert Moodie (born 1781) and Ann Cameron Troup (1790-1871). Scottish records are not freely available as images on most genealogy websites, however, from the 1841 Census we know that Robert was a “Superintendent” and from the 1851 Census he was a Sergeant (Chelsea Pensioner). Edwin’s siblings were all born in Montrose – Margaret Gurney Moodie (1821 – ?); Robert Troup Moodie (1822-1899); David Troup Moodie (1827-1885); and Elizabeth Moodie (1829-1918). Robert does not appear on a Census after 1851 and his wife Ann had moved to Wirral at some stage between 1861 and 1871 with Elizabeth as they are shown on the 1871 Census living at 62 Grove Road, Tranmere.
Edwin and his brother, Robert, both gained a “Masters” Certificate with the Board of Trade, Robert on 13th June 1853; and Edwin, although a bit younger gained his certificate earlier on 23rd April 1851. Both Edwin and Robert worked for Cunard, Robert having emigrated from Scotland to Australia in the mid 1850’s sailed the Sydney/Melbourne route, and Edwin, also having moved to Wirral with his mother and sister Elizabeth, sailed on the very competitive Liverpool/New York route.
On 21st June 1852, Edwin married Elizabeth Esther Berryman Knowles (1831-1863) at Walton on the Hill. It appears unlikely that Edwin and Elizabeth had any children before her death. After Elizabeth died, Edwin must have spent more time in the US as he married Helen Maria Warriner on 26th June 1865 at Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The record states that this was Edwin’s second marriage.
Ralph’s mother, Helen, was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the daughter of Lyman Warriner (1802-1853) and Maria Eliza Center (born 1804). Both the Warriner and Center families were Cotton Merchants and were notable families in Massachusetts. Lyman’s parents were Solomon Warriner and Betsey Jones; and Maria’s parents were Ebenezer and Mary Center. Shortly after their marriage, Helen and Edwin to Rock Ferry where all of their children were born.
The 1871 Census shows the family living at Rock Lane, Rock Ferry. Edwin must have been away at sea on this date as he is not with the family. Helen is shown as head of the family, born in North America. Edwin (junior) was 3, Robert 2 and Ralph and Flora were 6 months old. The family were obviously quite well off as they had four servants.
The family were still at Rock Lane in 1881 where the record shows that Edwin was now age 56 and the Principal Officer for the Board of Trade, Liverpool, his wife Helen was 43, and his sister Elizabeth was living with them and was age 52. Edwin (junior) and Robert were at this time boarding at Beaumaris Grammar School, Anglesey. Ralph and Flora were age 10 and at home with their parents. The family now had two servants. Edwin died on 25th August 1881 at Rock Ferry and probate of his will reveals that he left just under £4,000.
Ralph also attended Beaumaris Grammar School, Anglesey where as reported in the Liverpool Mercury of 17 May 1882, he won a 100 yard race for boys under 12. His brother Robert (shown as Robin) won the same event for boys under 14 and also the long jump (13ft 6in), and was 2nd in the half mile race.
The family must have owned property in both Hoylake and Littleham, Exmouth Devon, as Ralph, Flora and their widowed mother, Helen, are shown in the 1891 Census living in Devon. Helen is living at 2 Morpeth Road, Hoylake in 1901 and 1911 but then died in Devon in 1929. Ralph’s aunt Elizabeth is also living at 2 Morpeth Road, Hoylake in 1901 and 1911, she died in 1918 and is buried at Holy Trinity Churchyard.
Ralph’s twin sister, Flora, married Sir Lee Oliver Fitzmaurice Stack GBE, CMG (1868-1924) on 7th October 1902 at St Hildeburgh, Hoylake. He was a British army office who was the Governor-General of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan who was assassinated on 19th November 1924, whilst driving through Cairo.
One of Ralph’s first voyages across the Atlantic was in 1876 when he was just 5 years old. He travelled to the US with his mother and sister, Flora, on the Bothnia, which arrived in New York on 26th July 1876. The Bothnia was owned by the British & North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company which in 1879 became part of Cunard.
Ralph does not seem to appear on a Census in either the US or UK in 1900/1901, but in 1902 we start to see him on passenger records travelling frequently. It is likely that he moved to the US before 1900 as the first passenger record after this date has him arriving at Liverpool from the US on 3rd May 1902 on board the Campania when he was 31 years of age. From that date until his death in 1915, it would appear that he was living in the US for the most part of the year but visited home in England arriving in May and returning to the US in August each year. A fixed address has not been found until 1902 when a US City Directory lists him as living at 1203 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee along with his brother Edwin who was the Manager for the firm Wm Watson & Co. This is followed by another Directory in 1907, which lists him as living at 11 East Davis Street, Gainesville, Texas. He did not follow his father and uncle’s profession as a Master Mariner, but rather his maternal grandfather’s profession in the Cotton Trade.
On 3rd June 1908 Ralph married Mary Hemming at Colorado Springs, El Paso, Colorado. Mary was born in Texas, the daughter of banker, Charles Hemming. Ralph was now 37 years old. Shortly after their marriage Ralph and Mary returned to England to visit his family. They arrived in Liverpool on 19 June on the Baltic, which departed Pennsylvania and arrived back in New York from Liverpool on 28th August 1908 on the Mauritania. His annual journey home must have been delayed that year due to his marriage.
Sadly the marriage did not last as the 1910 US Census shows that Ralph was divorced. He was then living at 50 Church Street, Gainesville, Texas. Living two houses away was Ralph’s work colleague, Robert James Timmis, aged 43 who was also born in England. Listed with Robert was his wife and two children. Both Ralph and Robert were Cotton Buyers for the firm Wilson & Moodie, for which Ralph must have been a co-owner.
The early years of the 20th Century saw fierce competition on the North Atlantic Trade. German shipping lines tended to cater for the carriage of continental passengers whereas Cunard tended to go for speed, luxury and capacity. American businessman JP Morgan invested in the trade creating a new company, the International Mercantile Marine (IMM). He purchased other shipping lines including the White Star Line and incorporated them into IMM. In 1902 IMM entered into an agreement with NDL and HAPAG to fix prices and divide between them the transatlantic trade. IMM also made an offer to purchase Cunard who were their main rivals. Cunard declined the offer but then lacked the finance to be able to build new ships. Cunard’s chairman approached the government, who agreed to help when faced with the impending collapse of the British fleet and reserve of ships for deployment during war. Cunard was granted a loan to build two new ships. The loan was at a low interest rate and the ships were to receive an annual subsidy plus a mail contract. In return the ships had to be built to Admiralty specifications so as to be used as auxiliary cruisers during war.
The Lusitania was built by John Brown & Co Ltd, Clydebank, Scotland. It was laid down on 9th June 1904 and launched on 7th June 1906. Her port of registry was Liverpool and her maiden voyage was on 7th September 1907. At one time the Lusitania was the largest and fastest ship on the Atlantic route. She won the Blue Riband no less than four times on the more difficult westbound run firstly in 1907, twice in 1908 and once in 1909, but then was beaten by her sister ship the Mauritania in September 1909. On the eastbound run she was the Blue Riband winner in 1909 but lost the title later the same year, again to the Mauritania.
Ralph had been a passenger on the Lusitania in September 1911, August 1913, and September 1914. It set sail from New York bound for Liverpool on 1st May 1915, under the command of Captain Turner. Ralph was taking his annual trip to England at this time and was on board in cabin A26 along with his colleague and friend Robert Timmis, in adjoining cabin A27. Robert was born in Liverpool in 1865 and also travelled back to the UK once a year. In total, there were 1959 people on board. Despite warnings against travelling on the Lusitania by the German Embassy in New York, it was still packed. It was a luxury passenger ship and so people assumed they were safe.
The half way mark was reached on 4th May which is when U-boat U20 was spotted. There were about 15 U-boats in the “war zone” surrounding Britain, there had been many warnings from Admiralty about U-boat activity on the south coast of Ireland. The Lusitania came within sight of the Irish coast on 7th May. Captain Turner was concerned that there were no other ships within sight, not even naval ships for protection. At 13:40 the same day, the Captain could see the Old Head of Kinsale, a well-known sight for experienced sailors. The first torpedo was fired at 14:09. Eighteen minutes later the Lusitania sank and 1153 passengers and crew perished.
Sadly Ralph was one of those who didn’t survive, he had given his life jacket to a woman but sadly both perished.
Robert Timmis survived and so we have a glimpse of Ralph’s last few moments alive. For further reading see: http://www.rmslusitania.info/people/saloon/ralph-moodie/
From page 7 of the Monday, 10th May 1915 New York Times: “Both men gave their lifebelts to steerage women just as the Lusitania sank. Timmis, who is a strong swimmer, remained in the water, clinging to various objects, for nearly three hours. Then he was taken into a boat, which he still had the strength to assist in rowing.”
Probate of Ralph’s will was granted to his brother Edwin Ramsay Moodie as attorney for his sister Flora Center Stack.
Birth: 29th October 1870 Rock Ferry Death: 7th May 1915 age 44
Address: 34 Rock Lane, Rock Ferry (71-81); Morton Crescent, Littleham, Exmouth, Devon (91); 1203 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee (02); 11 East Davies Street, Gainesville, Texas (07); 50 Church Street, Gainesville, Texas (10); **2 Morpeth Road, Hoylake (01-15) Occupation: Cotton Buyer for Wilson & Moodie
Unit: None – Civilian Passenger on the Lusitania
Number and Rank: Civilian
Commemorated and Buried: At sea, body not recovered for burial
Sources: BR, LE, Liverpool Mercury, New York Times, Census: 71, 81, 91, 10
** Ralph appeared to spend the summer months in Hoylake and the remainder of the year in America. He stayed with his mother and Aunt Elizabeth at 2 Morpeth Road, Hoylake whilst in England.