By Dermot Ryan
JUST like every year, members of the Kinsale History Society gathered on May 7th in the Saint Multose graveyard, to remember the victims of the Lusitania, to lay wreaths and take part in an ecumenical prayer service.
Until now, just two of the victims were known, with the third merely listed as ‘an unknown woman victim’, even though she was identified soon after the burial.
The omission was finally rectified last weekend when a memorial plaque, inspired by the author Eric Sauder, was unveiled by Richard Woods, a US citizen who had family on the Lusitania.
The missing name was that of Margaret Shineman and the full story of her family has been researched by historian Peter Kelly.
James W Shineman was born in Illinois in or around 1883, and lived in Casper, Wyoming. It is possible that ‘Shineman’ was an anglicised form of his actual family name. He was a rancher by occupation, and some time before 1915, he met Margaret McKenzie, the daughter of Scotsman Donald McKenzie, who was working in the area.
They fell in love and were married in New York, on April 20th 1915. The newly weds decided to make their honeymoon a surprise visit to Scotland and without informing Margaret’s parents of their intentions, they booked passage on the Cameronia.
But when the liner was requisitioned by the British Admiralty for war service as a troop ship, all her passengers and some of crew were transferred to the Lusitania, and James and Margaret Shineman were offered second cabin passage on her instead. They were no doubt delighted with this turn of fate which gave them the opportunity of a much more comfortable and prestigious voyage, but it proved not to be beneficial at all, as they saw New York for the last time ever.
Six days later, just eleven days after the couple had been married, they were both killed when the liner was torpedoed and sunk off the Old Head of Kinsale by the German submarine U-20. Although Margaret Shineman’s body was recovered on the evening of the sinking, not far from where the liner went down, her husband’s body was not recovered until over two months later, on July 17th at Loop Head in Co Clare – about 200 miles away.
Once it was positively identified as being that of James Shineman, he was buried in Carrigholt, in Clare.