THE ‘world’s largest and fastest vessel’ made a splash when it launched on the Clyde on this day in 1906.

The story of the Lusitania is well-known – it was the biggest of its kind at the time, and it set a number of transatlantic crossing records. And in 1915, off the course of Ireland, it was sunk by a German U-boat, with the loss of more than 1000 people.

But the remarkable story of Glasgow shipworker James Haldane is less well known.

The 36-year-old was involved in building the ship at Clydebank – and he was on board when it sank.

The launch of the Lusitania

The launch of the Lusitania

According to The Lusitania Resource website, Haldane, was travelling from Massachusetts in the US home to Glasgow for a visit when the ship was torpedoed.

Newspaper reports at the time claimed he had died in the sinking, says the website.

“Haldane was initially reported to be among the lost in the Lusitania sinking, thus surprising his friends when he cabled them to tell them he was safe,” it reports.

“He returned to the United States several months later and enlisted in the Canadian Army ‘to avenge outrage’, as the newspaper report of his death put it.”

Haldane’s own account of the sinking is heartbreaking.

“The most pathetic sight of any which I witnessed was that of a man who strove bravely to save his child – a wee mite of eighteen months or so,” he wrote. “I turned on my back to rest, and when I looked again the man and child had disappeared, and the wreckage to which they had been clinging was floating away…the impression made on my mind by that little tragedy stamps it the most vivid of all my recollections of the awful time I spent in the water.”

1915 painting depicting the sinking of The Lusitania by a German U-Boat

1915 painting depicting the sinking of The Lusitania by a German U-Boat

Sadly, even though he survived the sinking of the Lusitania, Haldane was killed in action in August 1918.

As The Lusitania Resource puts it: “Haldane was perhaps the only person to have seen both the birth and death of the Lusitania.”

Its sad end could not have been foretold at the ‘perfect’ launch day on June 8, 1906.

Our sister newspaper The Glasgow Herald reported: “The launch at Clydebank yesterday of the new Cunard liner Lusitania was favoured with splendid weather and the many thousands of spectators saw, in the best possible circumstances, the floating of the largest vessel that has yet been built.

“Everything combined to make the launch a great success.”

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There was a party atmosphere at John Brown’s, according to The Herald.

“In the bright sunshine of the finest day of this year so far, the scene inside the yard before the Lusitania was launched was one to be remembered.

“The crowd was the largest that has ever witnessed the launch of a vessel on the Clyde or probably anywhere else.

“Messrs John Brown and Co had declared a holiday for the occasion…they had granted permission to all their emplotees to come inside the yard and they had added that each might bring with him a lady friend…

“As a spectacle, the launch was the most magnificent that has ever been seen.

“As a performance in shipbuilding it was a splendid success and reflected the greatest possible credit on the shipyard staff….”