Exactly 101 years after the sinking of the Lusitania, the grave-marker of “an unknown victim” is to be replaced with her real name — that of a young bride who was on the ship due to a cruel twist of fate.
The culmination of research undertaken by relatives of the survivors of the May 7, 1915, sinking will ensure that, 101 years later, the name Margaret MacKenzie Shineman goes on a headstone at St Multose Church cemetery in Kinsale, Co Cork.
Eric Sauder, an American expert who has written several books on the Lusitania, and other researchers, have been working for several months on the project to place a named marker on the grave.
Bronwen Woods, who is from England, and whose mother-in-law was a survivor of the sinking, was another researcher who worked on the project and produced a biography of Mrs Shineman, who was a second-class passenger on the liner.
She was born Margaret MacKenzie in a village in Scotland on Christmas Day 1888 and eventually moved to the US, finding work on a ranch in Wyoming.
“There she met American James Shineman and they were married on 23 April 1915, just two weeks before Lusitania sailed on her final voyage,” said Ms Woods.
It was a cruel twist of fate, as the couple had originally booked passage on the Cameronia to visit Mrs Shineman’s family in Scotland.
“But the Cameronia was then requisitioned by the British Admiralty, and they were transferred to the waiting Lusitania,” said Ms Woods. “Margaret’s mother had told her not to sail home and to wait until the war was over, but she ignored this warning, wanting to surprise her family.”
At 2.10pm on May 7, 1915, the Lusitania was struck by a single torpedo fired from the German submarine U-20, sinking 18 minutes later.
Around 1,200 drowned, including the newlyweds.
“Their bodies were both recovered but in very different locations,” said Ms Woods. “Margaret was found just off Kinsale, near the site of the sinking, and was buried at St Multose on 10 May. James’s remains were washed ashore in Co Clare in mid-July. They were interred in the Kiltrillig Graveyard, Carrigaholt, on 20 July.
“For 100 years, Margaret Shineman was listed as an unknown victim on her grave. The reason for this was that her body was quickly buried after the sinking and the grave was marked before she had been identified.”
Early last year, as the 100th anniversary of the disaster approached, Mr Sauder contacted the temporary rector to ask about commemorating Margaret with a named marker.
Mr Sauder had been in touch with Mrs Shineman’s relatives, who were eager to see it happen.
“Eamonn Casey Headstones of Carrigaline has very kindly donated the stone in memory of Margaret,” Mr Sauder said.
He added that Ms Woods husband, Richard, who is a son of survivor Nancy Wickings-Smith Woods, will speak the special at the service on May 7 for the unveiling of the new headstone.
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