McMaster, James

McMaster, James (Jimmie)

Ordinary Seaman

SS River Humber (Bristol), Merchant Navy

Killed in an accident at sea on Tuesday 4 June 1940 (aged 20)

No known grave


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Tower Hill Memorial, London, England (Panel 87)


James McMaster was a son of James (Jim) and Elizabeth (Lizzie) McMaster of Portavogie and during the Second World War he served with the Merchant Navy aboard the SS River Humber.  Built in 1920 by Hepple and Company Ltd., South Shields and owned by Messrs Charles Neill Ltd., Bangor, the SS River Humber was on passage from Dublin to Preston in ballast when she sank after a collision with HMS Folkestone in the Irish Sea east-north-east of Skerries, Dublin.  Mate Jack Cully and Fireman Frank Maginnis died in the same incident.  The fourth man who died was Chief Engineer Officer John Gibson aged 32 from Gardenstown in Banffshire, Scotland.  John Gibson was born in Pennan, Aberdeenshire in Scotland although he did live for a time at 26 Primrose Street in Bangor.

After Ordinary Seaman James McMaster died, John McMullan, Worshipful Master of Portavogie LOL 552 and W.H. Mawhinney, Secretary placed a notice in the 8 June 1940 edition of the County Down Spectator:

‘The officers and members of Portavogie LOL 552 desire to tender sincere and heartfelt sympathy to the relatives of Brother Jack Cully and Mr John McMaster who lost their lives in the sinking of the SS Humber’.

In 1940 and subsequent years there were Death and In Memoriam notices too from family and friends including his father, mother, brothers and sisters at Ratallagh, Co. Down; his sister and brother-in-law Nannie and Harry McMaster together with niece Elizabeth of 6 Frederick Place, Newtownards; his sister and brother-in-law Netta and Hugh Cardy, together with nieces Betty and May of 43 William Street, Newtownards; his sister and brother-in-law Sadie and David Coffey together with nephew and nieces Hugh, Jean and Jamesina (in some records, Jamisena) of Portavogie; his sister and brother-in-law Cassie and Samuel James Gibson together with niece Belle of 31 Movilla Street, Newtownards; his brother and sister-in-law John and Martha together with nieces Marie and Jeanetta of 30 Church Street, Newtownards; Molly Dunnen of 41 East Street, Donaghadee.

In 1940 they included the following verses:

Nannie and Harry McMaster, 6 Frederick Place, Newtownards

Your end came sudden, James dear,

You made us weep and cry,

But, oh, the saddest part of all,

You did not say good-bye. 

Molly Dunnen, 41 East Street, Donaghadee

Dearest friends may try to cheer me,

Yet on Jimmie I still call,

None on earth can be more kind,

When I lost him I lost all.

In 1942 they included the following verses:

Father, mother, sisters, and brothers, Ratalla

To a beautiful life came a sudden end.

We cannot kneel beside his grave,

For he sleeps in a distant sea,

And not one gentle whispering wave

Will tell the place to me.

But though unseen by human eyes

Though mortals know it not

His Father knoweth where he lies,

And Angels mark the spot.

He died like a hero, his face to the foe,

His Maker had called him, he could not say no;

He was one of the fearless and one of the brave,

Now he lies sleeping in a cold watery grave.

Netta and Hugh Cardy, 43 William Street, Newtownards

Too far away thy grave to see,

But not too far to think of you;

When days are dark and friends are few,

Dear James, it’s then we’ll long for you.

Nannie and Harry McMaster, 6 Frederick Place, Newtownards

Two years have passed since that sad day

When one we loved was called away;

God took him Home, iy was His Will,

But in our hearts he liveth still.

He died that we might live.

Sadie and David Coffey, Portavogie

He has anchored his soul in that haven of rest,

He will sail the wild seas no more,

For the tempest may sweep o’er the wild stormy deep,

But in Jesus he is safe evermore.

Cassie and Samuel James Gibson, 31 Movilla Street, Newtownards

A face so loved, so sadly missed,

His smile that was so bright;

He was so thoughtful, good, and kind,

Time cannot blot him from my mind.

John and Martha, 30 Church Street, Newtownards

A face that is ever before us,

A voice we shall never forget,

A smile that will linger forever

In our memory – we still see it yet.

In 1944 they included the following verses:

Father, mother, sisters, and brothers, Ratalla

Our world may change from year to year

Our friends from day to day,

But the memory of our dear son James

Will never fade away.

He died as he lived, everyone’s friend.

John and Martha, 30 Church Street, Newtownards

Oh!  Call it not death, it is life begun,

For the waters are passed, the home is won;

The ransomed spirit hath reached the shore,

Where they weep, and suffer, and sin no more.

He is safe in his Father’s Home above,

In the place prepared by his Saviour’s love.

Nannie and Harry McMaster, 6 Frederick Place, Newtownards

God hold you in the love and keeping,

And give you peace for evermore.

Cassie and Samuel James Gibson, 31 Movilla Street, Newtownards

Somewhere in the sunset,

Where loveliness never dies,

He dwells in the Land of Glory,

Mid the blue and gold of the skies.

Gone but not forgotten.

Ordinary Seaman James McMaster is commemorated on Tower Hill Memorial in London and on the family grave headstone in Kirkistown Cemetery.  His father Jim died on 31 January 1966; his mother Lizzie died on 7 February 1973 and his brother Bob died on 5 April 1997.