Titanic’s ship surgeon

Dr William Francis Norman O’Loughlin, (1850-1912)

IMG_1518-1 Titanic memorialBy: Dr Eugene O’Loughlin, Dublin, December 21, 2013

On a visit to Belfast last week I stopped by the Titanic Memorial at the side of City Hall where there is a full list of all those that died when the Titanic sank on 15th April 1912. Naturally I looked to see if there were any O’Loughlins listed and to my surprise I found that Dr William Francis Norman O’Loughlin was one of those who perished. There was never a mention of him in our family circles and if we are related in any way I’m sure it is a distant connection.

Dr O'Loughlin

Dr William O’Loughlin. Image Source: Royal College of Physicians of Ireland

According to the Encyclopedia Titanica, the 62-year old William O’Loughlin was the ship’s surgeon on board the Titanic. He was born in Ireland in 1849 in Tralee, but was orphaned and then raised by his maternal uncle Benjamin Matthews. He studied at Trinity College, Dublin, and the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin. After graduation he decided on a life at sea where he spent 40 years. When not at sea, he lived in Southampton.

In the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland Heritage Centre Blog it is noted that many “survivors state that after the ship had hit the iceberg Dr O’Loughlin calmly directed passengers towards the life boats and did his best to calm the panic”. It appears that he was very aware of the seriousness of the situation after the Titanic struck the iceberg. A tribute to him in the American Medicine Journal reads:

Dr O’Loughlin knew no fear, for he paid no attention to his own danger but went from one group to another, soothing the frightened, encouraging the week and striving in every way to prevent panic and hysteria. As the last life-boat left the vessel, although he must have known that the end was near, he was seen standing in a companionway with the same smile on his face that had endeared him to countless travellers who knew and loved him.

It is strange to think that 101 years later another O’Loughlin would be looking at his name on a memorial wondering who he was and how he came to be on the Titanic. There is also a Miss Mary Delia Burns from Ballysadare, Co Sligo, who was one of the 123 passengers who boarded the ship in Queenstown (Cobh). Though Byrne is my Mum’s surname, it previously was Burns up until the 1920s. Mary Delia was 18 years old and did not survive the disaster. She too may also have been a distant relative?

About BrendO

Musician in Canberra Australia
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2 Responses to Titanic’s ship surgeon

  1. We also learnt about Dr O’Loughlin at the Cobh(Cove)-near Cork- museum last year on our trip around Ireland. There is a great display there featuring Irish history, including information/photos on the Titanic as Cobh was the last place it called at before sinking. Many of the photos on display were taken by a priest who was invited to travel on the ship from its starting point to Cobh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • edwardologhlen says:

      Phonse – Great that you got to the coastal village of Cobh, formerly Queenstown. Yes, Fr. Browne took the last known photo of the Titanic, as she sailed away from Cobh to New York. He boarded the Titanic either in Southampton or Cherbourg and took a good number of photos on the trip towards Cobh. He wished to remain on board the whole way to New York, and received a curt reply by telegram, from his superior in the Jesuits –
      ‘Get off that Ship, immediately’! Fr. Brown went on to take many more photos after April 1912, thanks to that curt telegram from his clerical-superior.
      Catherine Henningsen, Adelaide also visited the port of Cobh – September 2010, to view where her ancestor, Cornelius OLoughlin departed for Australia in the final months of 1841.


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