On May 7, 1915, the ocean liner R.M.S Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat, causing the loss of nearly 1,200 passengers and crew. There were 767 survivors. No Albany residents seem to have been aboard, although several were from the Capital region. But the Albany Evening Journal reported at length on a man named Martin Mannion (or Manion), who had at least a tangential Albany connection.
Mr. Mannion, a native of County Kildare, Ireland, had come to the United States in 1911 to work as a jockey and horse trainer. He had spent time in St. Louis, Missouri before coming to New York State. During the 1914 racing season, Mannion was in Long Island, caring for thoroughbreds from the stables of Richard Croker, the infamous Tammany Hall ‘boss.’ While there, Mannion was injured in a railroad accident. One foot had been amputated, but he was still having trouble. Friends recommended that he see Dr. Marcus T. Cronin, surgical resident at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany (then located at Broadway and North Ferry Street).
On April 23, 1915, Dr. Cronin performed a re-amputation of Mr. Mannion’s foot. Mr. Mannion had been boarding at 800 Broadway (just a couple of blocks from St. Peter’s), and by April 30, had already purchased a ticket on the Lusitania from the H.J. Curtis agency in the Douw Building, and was on his way to New York City for its departure to England. He had told Henry Glatz, the proprietor of the rooming house he was staying at, of his intention to return to Ireland and take up work at the famous Curragh Racecourse.
Mr. Mannion was in the second class smoking cabin playing poker on the afternoon when his ship was struck by the torpedo. He feared he was doomed because he was wearing an artificial leg, and at first he began going down with the ship. But he somehow surfaced, and being a good swimmer, was able to stay afloat for four hours, until he and another man were rescued by a small boat. While trying to stay afloat, he encountered a crowd of two hundred men and women, clutching each other and thrashing in the water, crying for help; Mannion feared they all drowned and considered himself fortunate to have kept out of their way.
Mannion later told the Cork Examiner that the sinking was “sorrowful in every way.” He continued: “I am thanking God for my escape and do not think that I can ever be sufficiently grateful. When we struck the Irish land again you can imagine our joy. I need scarcely say that we Irish, with the other survivors bid the old land with an added blessing. “The top of the morning” in such a heartful manner that perhaps very few Irishmen ever did before.”