An American in Rugby

The agreement dated 17 November 1915 between Willans & Robinson and Joseph McLean for the company to employ him as a Brass Moulder.
Image courtesy of Alstom. Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR4031/3/3

Labour shortages caused by men joining the Armed Forces during the First World War led to many companies seeking help from overseas. One such organisation was Rugby-based engineering firm Willans & Robinson.

Crossing the Atlantic to work

In 1915 a number of Americans came over the Atlantic to work at Rugby. One of these was Joseph McLean who travelled on the Anchor Line ship Cameronia that docked at Liverpool in November 1915. The ship was providing a joint Anchor-Cunard Line service on the New York – Glasgow – Liverpool route. It was hazardous making such trips as earlier that year the ship narrowly escaped being attacked by a German U-boat in the River Mersey.

The passenger lists for arrivals in Liverpool show that Joseph had arrived with three other men to work for Willans – Joseph Patrick Toomey, Harvy Louder, and Walter Edward Cook. Joseph was the oldest at 55 and the others were in their late 20s or early 30s.

Joseph’s contract shows that his occupation was ‘brass moulder’, someone who made moulds for casting metal in the Willans foundry. The others were machinists (operating equipment such as lathes and grinders).

An early death

The file that holds the contracts for these four Americans also includes agreements for almost 40 others and has related correspondence. One of the items in the file is a list requested by Willans & Robinson showing sailing times and routes of ships coming from North Americas and operated by Canadian Pacific.

The next time we encounter Joseph is an entry for him in the Rugby Advertiser death notices, indicating that he died on 2nd July 1917 and lived at New Street in New Bilton, Rugby. Willans & Robinson got permission from Bilton Parish Council to bury him at New Bilton Cemetery in Addison Road, Rugby. The cemetery is now known as Croop Hill and is looked after by Rugby Borough Council.

This article was Document of the Month for Warwickshire County Record Office in October 2014.  Further articles can be found on their website.

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