(by Declan Quaile)
(First published in our Review 2008 journal)
James (Jemmy) Moore was born in Termonfeckin on 18th May 1884. He was the eldest surviving son of Micky Moore from Sunhill and Anne Carton from Duffsfarm, both in Termonfeckin parish. Jemmy attended primary school at Thunderhill from c1887 to c1895, the principal at the time being Patrick J. Brodigan. As Jemmy reached the older classes part of his lessons would have included the rudiments of seafaring and navigation taught by Brodigan at the time. Jemmy’s father Micky was steward for the Smyth family at Newtown estate on the Baltray road and had enough income to have his son educated to secondary school level. Around 1895 Jemmy commenced his secondary school education at the Christian Brothers School at Sunday’s Gate in Drogheda where three years later he sat his Intermediate Certificate examination, passing all subjects. When Jemmy went to secondary school he had the luxury of having a pony and trap to make the daily ten mile journey to and from school in Drogheda.
Having completed his education he worked for a time with the Great Northern Railway before an unfortunate event occurred in Drogheda when he and his friend, Michael Brodigan (the son of his former teacher, and both around 18 years old), were treated to a night out in Drogheda by Jemmy’s father. However when they awoke the next morning Jemmy discovered he had been persuaded into joining the Royal Navy, while Michael had joined the Army!
Jemmy was attached to the British Mediterranean Fleet and later correspondence noted him as serving on board HMS Victorious at Gibraltar.1 He was by nature ambitious, however the hierarchal structure of the Royal Navy only allowed commoners to reach lowly levels such as fireman or stoker, something which he felt was beneath his abilities. And so he yearned for something more.
Periods of naval duty were long but leave was also generous. It was on one of these furloughs (c1909), and at this stage totally disillusioned with his lot, that he decided to desert his ship and escape to America.2 Not returning for duty immediately made him a wanted man, and with the RIC looking for him he made his way to the United States where he joined a merchant ship under an assumed name. Sometime later he joined the US navy as a fireman and was lucky enough to be given leave to study engineering. So enthusiastic was he that he completed the two year course in fourteen months!
Before his escape to America he had been acquainted with a girl from Clogherhead called Margaret Gorman and around 1911, whilst serving on a ship, the USS Atlantic, he had written to her asking for her hand in marriage. With her family’s consent she arranged to travel to the US and there they were married in South Carolina in 1912. A short while later they moved to Mobile, Alabama where they reared five boys: Michael, Dermot, James, George & John.
James Moore (standing at rear) c.1905, in Royal Navy uniform while stationed at Plymouth
Back in Ireland Jemmy was still a wanted man after his desertion and any attempts at returning home whilst on leave were fraught with danger. However this did not deter him from an occasional homecoming. He would disembark at one of the ports, catch a train to Dunleer rather than Drogheda or Dundalk, where there would be an increased risk of detection, and walk from there to his home, constantly on guard for trouble ahead. His younger brother Paddy, similar in appearance, was even arrested briefly when the RIC raided their home, thinking that they had got their man. Also on another occasion, while his US navy ship was berthed at the British controlled island of Jamaica in the Caribbean, Jemmy with much shock at the coincidence, spied a familiar face on the quays; none other than that of the former RIC sergeant in Termonfeckin, David Jackson, who had been in charge of Termonfeckin station from 1903 to 1907 and who had transferred to an overseas posting but would have been aware of his fugitive status. Luckily Jemmy spotted him first so he kept his head down and the crisis passed.
By the time the US entered the First World War in 1917 Jemmy had risen to the position of Chief Engineer and was highly regarded for his commitment and work ethic. He had gained US citizenship and that together with the US involvement in Europe now meant he was free to travel home to Ireland without being detained. His son, Dermot, was actually born in Clogherhead c.1918 when his wife and family were home visiting, while he was at sea.
After the end of the war Jemmy was employed in the US coastguard service and having bought some land around Mobile tried his hand at farming, though this venture proved to be unsuccessful. His boys all had a good rearing; three sons, Michael, Dermot and John, joined the church, while George and James became attorneys at law.
When the Second World War broke out and the US entered in 1941 Jemmy returned to the sea and he plied his trade with his usual diligence. At the war’s end he was serving on board a cargo ship but now sixty-two years old he was planning on retiring. Before setting out on his final voyage from Mobile, Alabama to Hong Kong in 1946 he made arrangements to come to Ireland on holiday after the voyage. Unfortunately he would never see these plans realised. He became ill on the journey to the Pacific and, suffering from severe stomach pains as the ship neared its destination, he was rushed to a hospital in Hong Kong. There he died on an operating table (from stomach cancer) on 30th September 1946. He was buried locally the following day but four months later his family had his body returned to Mobile where it was re-interred in the Catholic cemetery of that city.
Family tradition has it that a ship (possibly a Liberty ship) was named after him though this cannot be substantiated.
His wife Margaret outlived him by thirty years. She died at her home in Mobile in October 1976 and was buried next to Jemmy in the family grave in Mobile.
1. HMS Victorious was a Majestic class battleship built at Chatham Dockyard and laid down on the 28th May 1894 and launched on 19th October 1895.
2. In the late nineteenth century the punishment for desertion was usually a lengthy spell on board a prison ship.
Audiotape memoirs by Jemmy's sister Jane Johnson (nee Moore) from 1984.
Insert notes from 1898 diary of Micky Moore, his father (see T.H.S. Review 2002)
Photograph from family collection.