THE family of a Rathfriland man who perished on Titanic almost exactly 100 years ago have paid tribute to the people of the area for keeping his memory alive.
Thomas Rowan Morrow’s great, great nephew Robert - who works as a car salesman in California - said his family owes a debt of gratitude to the people of Rathfriland for their refusal to forget Thomas’ voyage and tragic death.
The Drumlough man boarded the New York-bound ship at Queenstown in Cork on 11 April 1912. Just four days later the vessel hit an iceberg and sank, killing more than 1,500 of those on board. Thomas’ body was never recovered.
The prominent Orangeman left behind his widowed mother as well as a two sisters Mary and Sara. But he was also mourned by relatives who later managed to make the journey to Canada and eventually settled in America.
Speaking to the Leader Robert recalled quizzing his grandfather - Thomas’ nephew - about their travels to America and how he ended up as district manager for Safeway supermarkets.
“It was my grandfather, my great uncle, and great aunt, who were really the people you could tell knew what life was like back in Ireland during the days of the Titanic,” said Robert.
“My grandfather Robert J Morrow said he came to the United States at a very young age, not too long after World War One.
“He also said he stayed with family members in Canada at first, who helped him get started. He travelled over on a German ship, but couldn’t remember the name. I still recall always trying to pump him for extra information, if I could. He was as much like a father to me, as well as a grandparent.
“As a young man, he became involved with the grocery business then somehow, wound up with a job across the country in the San Bernadino/Riverside area of southern CA. Eventually he became a district manager for what later became known as Safeway supermarkets.”
The 49-year-old said he had great interest as a child in the story of the Titanic and his great, great uncle and is honoured that so many Rathfrilanders are determined to keep the memory alive.
“Although I remember interrogating my grandfather with lots of questions about Thomas and the Titanic, the most I got from either him, or my great uncle Tommy, was that they remembered Thomas, and recalled traveling part of the way with him by wagon to the ship, but they never saw the Titanic themselves.
“They also said that, besides the usual luggage, there were two or more “guns” being brought along, that required some special attention. I asked my grandfather why he didn’t go all the way to see him off, and he said it was too far.
“I wish I had more time to express how much my family and I appreciate all the nice folks in the local area that have helped to keep Thomas’ memory alive. We personally feel that, except for the notoriety of the Titanic, Thomas’ story is much like so many of the other thousands, and thousands of Irish immigrants, who really endured a lot hardships, just trying to make life better for themselves and their families.”
And Robert hopes that he and his family can re-trace their ancestor’s footsteps later this year.
“I regret I can’t be there on April 15 but I will be in my heart... and hope to make the trip later this year. Thanks to Thomas, our family has been afforded a rare, second chance, to rediscover our Irish heritage. We’re a lot of us like orphans here in the US, never really being sure exactly where we’re from. I wish I could tell you the sense of pride we feel when we look at the pictures of the people and places in the local area. From the Morrow family, to everyone in the area, God bless, sincerely Robert S Morrow.”