McMurray, Alexander (Alex)
Stoker 2nd Class
No. SS/116710, HMS Princess Irene, Royal Navy
Died in service on Thursday 27 May 1915 (aged 20)
No known grave
Chatham Naval Memorial, Kent, England (Panel 12)
Bangor and District War Memorial
Royal British Legion (Bangor Branch) Memorial Plaque
Comrades of the Great War (Bangor Branch) Album in North Down Museum
First Bangor Presbyterian Church
Memorial opposite Sheerness Railway Station (commemorates all those who died aboard HMS Princess Irene)
Alexander McMurray was born on 11 October 1894 in Crawfordsburn Road, Bangor and he was a son of William and Mary Ellen McMurray (nee Campbell) who were married on 26 April 1878 in Bangor Parish Church of Ireland Church (then Bangor Abbey). William McMurray from Bangor was a son of Thomas McMurray, a labourer. Mary Ellen Campbell, a minor from Bangor, was a daughter of Andrew Campbell, a shoemaker.
The McMurray family lived in Abbey Street, Bangor; on Gray’s Hill, Bangor and then at 28 Dufferin Avenue, Bangor.
William McMurray worked as a plasterer and he and Mary had nine children:
Andrew (born 15 April 1879 in Castle Street, Bangor)
Thomas (born 17 February 1881 in Abbey Street, Bangor)
William (born 15 April 1885 in Abbey Street, Bangor)
Sarah Shannon (born 28 October 1888 in Union Street, Bangor; died of bronchitis after scarlet fever on 5 October 1894 aged 5)
Mary (Minnie, born 5 March 1891 in Union Street, Bangor)
Robert Purse (born 14 May 1892 in Albert Street, Bangor)
Alexander (born 11 October 1894 in Crawfordsburn Road, Bangor)
Sarah Shannon (born 20 February 1896 in Catherine Place, Bangor)
Florence (born 10 October 1899 in Main Street, Bangor)
At least four of the children were baptised in First Bangor Presbyterian Church.
Alexander McMurray worked as a bricklayer before he went to sea. He joined the Royal Navy in January 1915 and, after training, he was posted to HMS Princess Irene. The steamship Princess Irene was built in 1914 at Dumbarton for the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. Before she left for the Pacific she was requisitioned by the Royal Navy and converted into a Minelayer. Based at Sheerness in Kent she was in the River Medway on 27 May 1915 when she blew up at around 11.15 am as a result of an internal explosion. There was only one survivor.
Mines were being primed on the ship’s two mine decks and without warning the ship was blown to pieces scattering debris and human remains over a wide area. Few bodies were recovered. There were reports afterwards that the explosion had been caused by a faulty primer although an opinion was expressed that the work of priming the mines was being carried out in a hurry by men who had received insufficient training.
Stoker 2nd Class Alexander McMurray (No. SS/116710) was 20 when he died. His brother Thomas served with the Royal Irish Rifles and was wounded on at least three occasions. Alexander’s father William died on 7 August 1931 (aged 75).
Stoker 2nd Class Alexander McMurray (No. SS/116710) is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial in Kent; on Bangor and District War Memorial; on the Royal British Legion (Bangor Branch) Memorial Plaque; in the Comrades of the Great War (Bangor Branch) Album in North Down Museum; in First Bangor Presbyterian Church and on a Memorial opposite Sheerness Railway Station (commemorates all those who died aboard HMS Princess Irene).