Find crew / staff lists for SS Athenia? Agnes MacFarlane worked as a Stewardess

See "SS Athenia, First Casualty of the U-Boat War on the 3rd. of September 1939"


I am the great granddaughter of Agnes MacFarlane who worked as a Stewardess on the SS Athenia during the late 1920's. I was wondering if you could direct me to a site online that may have the crew/staff lists for this ship when it was torpedoed on Sept.3, 1939.

Thank you,
Gayle M. Nee

Dear Mac,

Great to hear from you again after all this time. Yes I'm still 'afloat' but memory not so good, I often have to ask my wife what day of the week it is!  Considering that I celebrated my 80th birthday two months ago I really can't complain.

On Wednesday evening I was searching the Internet for information on a certain ship and up came upon the link to your web page. I spent the next half hour browsing through your pages and in the process forgot what I was originally searching for. I made a mental note to e-mail you next day and say Hello. Now I still can't believe this but on Thursday I downloaded my e-mails and the first one I opened, you guessed it, it was the one from you. Talk about a coincidence!  I've always been interested in Psychic matters and this seems to confirm that there could be something in it after all.

Regarding your query about the Athenia crew list. I'm sorry I can't help you here. I've done a search of the net but came up blank. The only name I found was a Miss Hannah Baird a stewardess on board, the first Canadian service casualty of the war. I suppose she could be classfied as crew.

Thanks for pointing out my spelling mistake, I seem to have done this a couple of times but have corrected them. This one I missed somehow.

My best wishes for rest of 2004. Look after yourself and stay healthy.

Best regards,


The only name I can come up with to date ( via a friend on the net who lives in Western Australia ) is: A Miss Hannah Bird Baird, a stewardess on board Athenia, and the first Canadian Service casuality in WW2.

I will continue to look, but am not confident of the result you are seeking.

Kind Regards,



Thank you for your response! I sincerely didn't expect you to do the look up for me, but just to point me in the right direction.  The fact that Ms. BirdBaird is listed as the "first Canadian casualty" in WWII, may be the way that I can find out if my greatgrandmother, Agnes MacFarlane, was working on the Athenia at the time of its demise. I will look to see if I can find her among the list of casualties for Scotland.

Thank you so much for your help,
Gayle Nee


Thank you for your message, I am pleased if I am able to help just a tiny bit. It is very frustrating trying to locate individual crew or passengers in a specific ship. This page from the Nation Museum at Greenwich in London may be of some help, it gives guide lines for searching.

Back in 1859 a Manus Boyle, a relative of a US Professor in New York, sailed from Melbourne, here in Australia for Liverpool in a sailing ship called Royal Charter, she came to grief on rocks off Moelfre in Wales, and only 39 survived from a total of almost 500. Manus died that night, well, do you think we can find him by name anywhere? The 39 survivors are listed, all ingoing immigrants to Australia are listed, but those leaving, no.

We have searched high and low, Joshua ( my Professor ) is visiting Wales this coming August, but it is through an enquiries such as yours that I have developed a friendship with a number of people across the world, the subsequent search, and the occasional triumph, all by E-Mail.

The German Armed Sailing ship Seeadler, and her unusual Captain, Count Felix von Luckner, about whom I have written on my Web Site, has brought forth more comment and questions than anything else I have done.

One thing I have learned from all of my researching is that simple persistence, in the long haul pays off, so keep having a go Gayle, and Great Grandma, may well be uncovered.

Please excuse my rantings,

Best regards,

Dear Mac,

I was just having another look at your website and thought I'd give you an update on my quest to find the SS Athenia crew records. I hired a woman from Scotland to research in London for the crew records. She was able to get me the actual logs for the years 1926 and 1927, but the 1939 logs from when the SS Athenia was torpedoed where no where to be found.

Today I randomly posted a question on the Hidden Glasgow website, and someone from there has articles relating to this sinking actually from 9-6-1939, some photos, and official documents with some crew names. All of this he/she is willing to scan and send to me! Imagine!  How good and generous people are online when it comes to research, and how willing to share!

Just thought an update might make you feel pretty good that you contributed to this quest by urging me on to find my great gran on the SS Athenia. A long haul, but still worth it!

Keep up the good work on your site!  All the best,

Gayle M. Nee

Hello Karl Brown,

Mac just forwarded your email to me, as he was heading out on vacation. You are looking for John O'Keefe that served on the Athenia. Let me just tell you that finding a crew list for that day has been difficult to say the least ! I have passengers of all levels of the ship, but have been able to locate a crew list for the voyage.

Do you know the years that John O'Keefe served on the ship? I do have logs from the voyages that I knew for sure  my great gran was aboard: 1926, 1927, I know also that she was still working on it in 1929 because I have pictures of the staff on board.  what information are you looking for specifically?

I have recently contacted the Order Of Malta in Galway because they were the ambulance service that responded to the crisis and assisted survivors. i have yet to hear from them. I've been in contacted with a glasgow site and the people there have been very helpful. One person even forwarded me the actual passenger lists for that voyage, that was handed down from an uncle that survived.

My search has gone on for many years, and I really don't have much per say.I've met some wonderful people along the way of this search and I am convinced that I will have success in finding that list when I least expect it!

Last year I was informed that there was to be a new book about the sinking of the Athenia.  A fellow named Hurstak, editor of the Montreal Gazzette, went over to Scotland this past spring to finish up the research.  I look forward to this book answering my questions, and if he found anything of importance or new, I'm sure he'll save it for the book.

I will send on to you a pic of my great gran, Agnes MacFarlane, and some other crew aboard the Athenia, I believe from 1927.  Please feel free to contact me, and let me know the specifics of what you are looking for!   Thanks for writing!

Gayle Nee


Hello Gayle.

I am back on deck after our journey into the Mediterranean, a visit to Milan, Vienna, and Venice, and we had a quite wonderful time, so much ancient history in some areas of our visit.

I have just received a list of the crew members who died when Athenia was torpedoed, are they of any interest to you for your records in all your research into that ship? If they are, I will be pleased to share them with you, just say the word.

Trusting you are well, with kindest wishes and regards.



Hi, I would just like to say that I am enjoying your web site.
Like Gayle M Nee I was looking for info about my Grandfather Mr John O'Keefe from Helensburgh in Scotland, who also served aboard the Athenia on that fateful day.
I would be grateful if you could forward this EMail to Gayle so she can consider forwarding any relevant finds and I would do likewise.
Again most impressive web site
Yours Gratefully,
Karl Brown


I do have a list of all the crew members who died when Athenia was torpedoed.

Your Grandfather John O'Keefe does not appear on that list, but if it is of any interest to you please let me know and I will send you a copy.

Thank you for your kind words about AHOY.


Kind words? No just credit where it is due.

Sorry if I confused, my grandfather survived, and is seen in some news clips escorting passengers. he was a ships cook.

Gayle has been a great support thanks to your site, and yes I am sure my mum would like the list, though a bit morbid, I shall set it in a frame against a backdrop of Athenia.

Ahain many thanks and keep it up Matey

Karl (a jock fae Scotland)

Hey Mac!!

Good to have you back home! (*online*)  Hope you and your wife had a lovely vacation! My sister use to live in Greece and she says there's no place like that area of the world!

A CREW LIST of those aboard the AThenia?????  You don't need to ask me twice as that is all I've been looking for these past five years!!!! Wow--thank you for sharing it with me--it will answer a lot of questions. Where did you find it?? Even the researcher I've had look at the records in London for me couldn't locate the list for that particular voyage. I'd be ever so pleased!!

I was in touch with the fellow whose mail you forwarded just before you left on vacation!  His grandfather was one O'Keefe who worked on the Athenia. I was able to check the logs I had here for the 1927 voyages, and didn't he work with my own great grandmother ?? I scanned and sent him the entry, and also some crew pictures to see if the grandad was in any of them. He wasn't, but it was great to have the connection with these other people so interested in the Athenia.

See how much good you've done by having your site?? Bringing people of common interest from all over the world together! Thanks Mac!

All the best, Gayle Nee

Gayle and Karl,


This note has come to me from Doug Harris in Nova Scotia, we already have Hannah Baird listed , but I think Fred Blair is an addition.

Another piece for the jig saw puzzle.

Best to you both.

While looking for the crew, passenger and casualty list for the Athenia,
I came across your postings and found this one.

On 3 September l939, the liner S. S. Athenia was torpedoed by a German submarine in the Atlantic off the coast of Scotland. This was in effect the first act of war on the high seas. The ship had 1400 passengers on board, of whom 200 were Canadian. Some accounts list Hannah Baird of Quebec City as Canada's first war casualty. Some New Brunswickers were on board this ship and although nearly all were rescued, it was later confirmed that Fred H. Blair, a former "boy organist" of Saint John, Chatham, Moncton and Fredericton had died in the rescue attempt. He could be considered to have been the first New Brunswick casualty of World War II. The ship itself was well known to many in this province; Saint John had been a frequent port of call.

Doug Harris
New Brunswick

6 March 2005


Have you seen this report about the side wheeler SS Portland, plus the lithograph of her.

Hope it helps your search.


Dear Mac,

Aren't you great to go to so much trouble!  Agnes Macfarlane is elusive in the sense that it is such a popular name! I never realized until I started this search.  My Agnes was born March 27, 1874 as Agnes Ramage Johnston (e) in Edinburgh, Scotland. She married a Simpson, then a MacFarlane (in 1908). I know from record that when she worked on the Athenia in 1929 *according to the ship logs* , she lived at 55 Whitecrook Street, Clydebank, Glasgow. Even if she survived the 1939 sinking of the Athenia, whitencrook street was bombed during the Clydebank Blitz in 1944 ?1941 not sure right now. the houses on both sides of her were bombed out and had casualties, but hers still stands and she is not listed on the rolls as dying in that blitz. The mystery continues!!  
Again, thank you for your perseverance!  I think Agnes will turn up when I least expect it! Thanks again,

Gayle Nee
**ps, I am looking at another related subject here, which is not war related, but in the idea of shipwrecks and lists: here in the Cape Cod/ Boston, Massachusetts area, there was a steamship "The Portland" which sailed between Boston and Portland, Maine.  This ship went down in the ?1898 Hurricane? off the coast of Cape Cod and has been located in the past few years.  there's loads of material on this ship, but since the passenger list was never sent back to shore before it departed, there is no such list in existence.

My search now, while I wait to track down Agnes, is to find such a list of both passengers and crew.  (why can't i find a subject that is easy to trace??)--my interest being that my dad's family, The Whites, and my husband's family were both living in Boston at the time of this wreck, and both had extended family in Portland, Maine. Perhaps a few worked on the boat, or were passengers?  lol--another blind alley!


If Agnes served in Athenia in 1929, she may well have moved on to another ship 10 years later.

You always give yourself the tough ones to solve, have sent some details of the Portland.

All the best, 

back to letters index


This site was created as a resource for educational use and the promotion of historical awareness. All rights of publicity of the individuals named herein are expressly reserved, and, should be respected consistent with the reverence in which this memorial site was established.

Copyright© 1984/2014 Mackenzie J. Gregory All rights reserved