On the 15th of April, 1912, the RMS Titanic sank after striking an iceberg and over 1,500 lives were lost. The ship slipped from view under the Atlantic Ocean with only 705 having escaped. Of the victims, some felt their duty was to remain and go down with the vessel. One such man on duty was Dr William Francis Norman O'Loughlin, Senior Surgeon White Star Line and RCSI graduate.
William Francis Norman O’Loughlin was born on 22 October 1849 in Tralee, Co. Kerry. He embarked on his education journey in the 1860s, reportedly to Trinity College and the Catholic University of Ireland, the precursor of UCD on St. Stephen’s Green. He took medical training in Cecelia St. and went on to take his exams with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, signing the Roll of Licentiates in August, 1870.
|Signature in the RCSI Roll of Licentiates, 1870|
A year later, in 1871, he became a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland. Some years later, Dr O’Loughlin was located in Southampton. His career would see him serving at sea for about 40 years. He was ship’s surgeon aboard the Majestic and the Olympic before his fateful transfer to the Titanic in 1912.
On the Titanic, the medical facilities Dr O’Loughlin headed up were said to rival the best small hospitals of the time. Every Third-Class passenger underwent a medical examination, to prevent the spread of disease and lice on board. Seemingly the facilities spanned different decks, with multiple wards, a padded room and two infectious disease wards, wards for the engineers, surgery rooms and a dispensary.
Dr O’Loughlin’s story isn’t captured through the Hollywood retellings, but his service and heroism were heralded in the newspapers of the day.