This is part of a series of essays about the First World War casualties commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in New York.
Patrick McDonagh (Padhraig MacConnachadh) was born on 16 March 1895 in Claddagh, a fishing village on the western outskirts of Galway in Ireland. He was the fourth of the nine children of Thomas and Kate McDonagh, who lived at Rope Walk in the centre of the village. His father was a stone mason but Patrick became a fisherman, like the majority of men in the village.
He enrolled in the Royal Naval Reserve on 20 June 1913 and was allocated the number 5050A. Between August and November he underwent training at Portsmouth and in the gunnery training ships HMS Duncan and HMS Albemarle, and in the Home Fleet in the battleship HMS Bulwark. In the period before the war he returned to Galway, initially fishing as a crewman on the trawler Star of the Sea, before joining the liner SS Merion for a crossing to Philadelphia, and then the White Star liner SS Suevic for a journey to Australia between March and July 1914.
On the outbreak of war Seaman McDonagh was mobilised and ordered to report to HMS Excellent, on Whale Island at Portsmouth, for gunnery training. On 20 September 1914, now rated ‘Able’, he joined HMS Calgarian. Calgarian was an armed merchant cruiser, originally a trans-Atlantic liner of the Allen Line, which had been requisitioned for service with the Royal Navy when war began. She took part in blockade operations at Lisbon and New York and acted as a troop transport between Halifax, Nova Scotia and Liverpool.
Able Seaman McDonagh left HMS Calgarian with 52 other ratings on 31 October 1916 and the next day rejoined HMS Excellent for training as a gunner on defensively armed merchant ships. He joined the crew of the cargo ship SS Oristano on 6 December.
The Oristano arrived in New York from Cardiff on 19 March 1917. Able Seaman McDonagh drowned in an accident at 11.40pm on the night of 20 March; the exact circumstances are unknown. His body was recovered the next day. He was buried in the Seaman’s Church Institute plot at The Evergreens Cemetery, Brooklyn in Grave 3 on 23 March. A new CWGC gravestone was recently erected a few feet from the original CWGC gravestone—one of them is obviously in the wrong place—and both show his rank as ‘Seaman’. There are 12 other CWGC burials in this cemetery.
His medals group comprises the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20 and the Victory Medal.
William P. Gonzalez for the photograph of Able Seaman McDonagh’s grave.
1. (Back) ‘McDonagh’ is an Anglicised Irish surname most commonly spelled ‘Mac Donnchadha’ in Gaelic. The family compiled the census of 1911 in Irish and used the form ‘Mac Connachadh’. It is the only use of this name in the entire Irish census. The form ‘Mac Donnachadh’ is used by another family in Galway.
2. (Back) Thomas McDonagh (Tomás MacConnachadh) (c1860-NK) and Kate (Cáit) (née unknown) (c1862-NK): Mary (Máire ) (c1892-NK); Mark (Marcus) (c1894-NK); Ellen (Neille) (c1897-NK); Michael (Micheal) (c1899-NK); Thomas (Tomás) (c1900-NK); Bridget (Brighid) (c1903-NK); Martin (Máirtin) (c1904-NK); Una (Una) (c1908-NK).
3. (Back) HMS Calgarian was sunk by U-19 on 1 March 1918 off Rathlin Island with the loss of two officers and 47 crew.
4. (Back) SS Oristano was sold after the war to a Japanese company and renamed Ryokai Maru. She was torpedoed and sunk by the USS Plunger on 22 August 1943.
5. (Back) See also: Serjeant George Birkenhead, Trimmer John Walter Bowles, Able Seaman Thomas Drinkwater, Private William Richard Eveleigh, Leading Seaman William Charles John Geeves, Trimmer Percy Hyett, Stoker 1st Class Henry John Gardner Miller, Leading Seaman Sydney Stephen Milliner, Fireman Low On, Scullion William B. Parr, Stoker 1st Class Alfred Weeden, and Leading Seaman Sam Gordon Wills.