Dr William Francis Norman O’Loughlin, (1850-1912)
By: 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.
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?