People on board
HOBSON, Nathaniel James Fennell
Nathaniel James Hobson was born in Drogheda on 24 February 1881, the third of four children born to Abraham Hobson and Elizabeth Fennell. Abraham, who was a widower when he married Elizabeth in April 1877, was born in Donard, Co Wicklow in 1836 into a Church of Ireland family that suffered significantly during the Famine. Elizabeth’s father was a Justice of the Peace from the townland of Mayo in Queens’ County (Laois). One of Abraham’s brothers, Richard, was ordained in the Anglican Church and became a much loved minister of a parish in Liverpool, in one of the most deprived areas. He wrote an autobiography which touched on his early life in Wicklow. In 1861 Abraham married Jane Fitzpatrick in Dundalk and there were at least three children born, Mary, Sarah and William before she died in January 1877. Also in 1861 his sister, Marianne, married Robert Cathcart in Drogheda, who had a long-established bakery business on Shop Street in the town.
It was in that business that Abraham was working as a Clerk / Accountant when he re-married in 1877, and he and Elizabeth had their four children in Drogheda. The first born in 1878, Nathaniel Fennell, died in infancy. He was followed by Catherine, later known as Kathleen, in 1879, Nathaniel James in 1881 and Elizabeth Margaret in 1882. The family lived in Rose Hill Cottage on Chord Road, a property that was described as “A charming residence with a valuable garden of over one acre” and “with a splendid view of the River Boyne and the Harbour of Drogheda”.
In late 1896 Abraham sold Rose Hill Cottage and moved to Belfast. The family were living in St Ives Gardens in south Belfast in the 1901 census, with Abraham describing himself as a ‘Commercial Agent’. Nathaniel was a Baker, Kathleen a Shorthand Typist and Elizabeth a Book Keeper. In 1907 Nathaniel married Elizabeth Ham, the daughter of the Secretary of the Ulster Spinning Company, and they had two children, Henry Raymond, later called Richard Henry, in 1908 and Nathaniel Thomas in 1909. In the 1911 census they were living in Oakland Avenue, in east Belfast, while Kathleen was boarding not far away. Abraham and his wife and daughter Elizabeth had moved to Dublin by this time, and were living in Northumberland Avenue in Kingstown.
In 1913 both Nathaniel and his father-in-law, Thomas Ham, were declared Bankrupts in the Belfast Bankruptcy Court. Nathaniel had been trading as N.J. Hobson & Co. Bakery, Confectionery and Catering. He and his family left Belfast for England and settled in Daffodil Avenue in Birkenhead. There two more children were born, Reginald in 1914 who died in 1916, and Cecil in September 1918.
In January 1915 Nathaniel enlisted in the 5th King’s Liverpool Regiment and a year later was promoted from Sergeant to 2nd Lieutenant. He was sent to France, in 1916 being involved in the Ypres battle, and in 1917 he was promoted again to Lieutenant and Quarter Master. He may not have been at home for the birth of his youngest son, but he was on leave visiting his parents in Kingstown with his eldest son Richard in October 1918. On returning to England on the 10th on RMS Leinster, he and Richard were accompanied by his sister Elizabeth. None of the three survived the sinking and no bodies were recovered. His name is inscribed on the Hollybank Memorial in Southampton and on his parents’ grave in Dunleckney graveyard in Bagenalstown, Co Carlow, as well as on the Carlow Great War Memorial in Leighlinbridge. Nathaniel’s widow Elizabeth lived on in Birkenhead with her two surviving sons, dying in 1966.