Faces of the Titanic: Chief Purser Hugh Walter McElroy lost his life - Irishman was "larger than life"

Chief Purser Hugh Walter McElroy photographed with Captain of the Titanic Edward John Smith

The Cork Examiner reported on 18 April 1912:

Mr McElroy, the Chief Purser, was a Wexford man, and as fine a type as could be found. He was the Commodore Purser and only recently married the daughter of Captain Ennis of Wexford.

Mr John J. Ennis JP … came to reside with his two daughters at his home place in
Springwood (Ballymitty, County Wexford). Last year, one of his daughters, Miss Barbara Ennis, was married to Mr Hugh McElroy, who belongs to a very good Liverpool family, and is brother to Fr McElroy, who lives close to Bootle. He had been a purser in the White Star Line for a quarter of a century.

The remains of the Chief Purser were destined to be recovered from the ocean by the
MacKay-Bennett search vessel. He was wearing a white dress uniform – leading to the initial mistaken conclusion that it could be the body of a steward. From a fragment, they came up with the name of D. Lily, but in fact there was no one of this name on board. The body was that of Hugh McElroy.

No. 157. Male. Estimated age, 32. Dark Hair.

Clothing – Ship’s uniform; white jacket; ship keys; 10 pence; 50 cents; fountain pen.
Steward. Name – D. Lily.

The body was buried at sea. A scrap of paper in the name of his wife was also taken from the remains and later provided corroboration of his identity.

Percy Mitchell, the White Star Line’s manager in Montreal, later signed a declaration
to obtain the above effects from the coroner’s officer of Halifax, Nova Scotia. He certified the name of the deceased as H. McElroy, Purser, SS Titanic, his residence as Southampton, England, his religion as Roman Catholic, and his nationality as Irish. The official name of the claimant, issued in the space provided, was ‘White Star Line’. It was perhaps appropriate. His white-clad corpse was the most senior member of crew to be recovered, and he had been one of their brightest lights for a long time, ever the embodiment of the White Star Line.

Dr J. C. H. Beaumont, for many years senior surgeon on the Olympic, claimed in his
book Ships and People, published in 1927, that it was known that Purser McElroy had
premonitions about the new liner prior to embarkation. He did not expand on the remark.

1911 census – ‘Springwood’, Tullacanna, County Wexford.
John Ennis (75), widower, retired steamship manager … Hugh Walter McElroy (36),
purser. Wife Barbara Mary (34). Married less than one year.
Six servants, including domestics, farmhands, a stableman and professional nurse.
First-class house with ten rooms and 15 outlying farm buildings.

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