John McGoey (1883-1924)

A particularly enigmatic man to track down. Whether he was what he claimed to be, a straight-forward messenger from USA to Casement in Germany is doubtful. One can put two stories together, which I have proven in more detail, and

So putting together John McGoey's life in more detail

1876 Jul 14. His parents Patrick McGuay and Mary Banks marry in District of Carlton, Glasgow. Patrick is the son of Francis and Catherine McGuay, both deceased. Catherine appears to have been Nee McKirnan, He is living at 3 Armour St, Glasgow

1879 Nov 29 His sister Mary born Dennistoun, Lanarkshire. She is given as his next of kin in his 1910 entry to USA

1881 Oct 21 His sister Margaret born Dennistoun, Lanarkshire. She is given as his next of kin in 1916 in Zossen

1883 Jun 3. From his entry in Egypt Volunteers for Casement's Brigade, he was born Glasgow 1883 (3 Jun if the above certificate is the correct one). One can see from this that his parents were Patrick McGuay, a mason's labourer. And Mary McGuay (nee Banks). Patrick McGoey, age 21, is living in Glasgow in 1871 census.

1891 census - I cannot find them

1901 Census living at 24 David St, Camlachie, Glasgow

1903 A Patrick McGuay dies on Glasgow, which may be his father

1904 April 19. A John McGuay leaves Liverpool bound for Montreal on SS Lake Champlain. He is born 1883, Scottish and a bricklayer. This appears to be our man, from age, ethnicity and trade. He states in 1910 entry to USA that he had been there previously for a 3 year stay. His US entry card confirm that it is him as it states he is a "bricklayer"

1904 Apr 22. Arrives in USA and crosses border at Niagra Falls

1905 Dec 6. John McGoey leaves USA as an Ordinary Seaman on the crew of SS Scottish Moors. He joined at Port Townsend, Washington State, USA.bound for Liverpool. He is born 1883 and Scottish. I cannot be certain that this is our man, but this seems to be how he returned home to Scotland.

1909 His mother, Mary Catherine McGoey (nee Banks) dies in Glasgow aged 53

1910 Jun 19. Arrives in USA at Ellis Island. This appears to be our man, right age and place of birth. He gives next of kin as Mary McGoey, his sister at 18 Abercromby Rd, Glasgow. His entry form says he previously spent 3 years in USA. He is going to live with his aunt in Chicago, Mary Ann Kelly at Stoneyisland Av, Chicago. He is 5ft 7.75" and fresh complexion, grey eyes. The 1901 census shows that he did have a sister Mary and following the death of his parents, his sisters are his next of kin.

1910 Sep. His sister Margaret McGoey marries James McEneany in Gateshead

1911 census at 41 North Burns, Chester le Street. This is the address he gives in 1915 for his sister. No sign of his sister there at this date. If she ever lived here, it must be after 1911.

1915 Oct 2. German Military Attaché in New York, Von Pappen, sends a cable to German Staff advising them that McGoey from Chicago is on his way to Copenhagen in an oil tanker. "The Irish leaders vouch for him and recommend him for use with the Irish Brigade" Description: About 30 years old, 5 feet 7 inches tall, speaks English with a Scottish accent, he asks the German authorities to allow McGoey to proceed to Berlin.

In a letter in 1924 to the Director of Military Intelligence in Irish Army from Meade (who was a Lieutenant in the Free State army in 1924) refers to McGoey as "Rogers". He writes that he was attached to the Brigade for about 3 months from late 1915. Meade has never heard any more about the man. Meade said McGoey had no interest in the Irish Brigade. Meade describes the man as 5ft 6 inches, age about 30, stout build, fair complexion, smart soldier like appearance.

1915 Nov 26. McGoey arrives in Copenhagen and gets passport from German Consulate for onward travel to Germany

1915 Nov 27 McGoey leaves Copenhagen at 10.30am and arrives Warnemunde, Germany at 4 pm. He is instructed to report to Wedel at Foreign Office. Interestingly the Consul adds that due to shortage of time the passport would not have a photograph.

1915 Nov 28. He arrives in Berlin. He has a letter for Casement from J. McGarrity stating that McGoey was was a member of the “Irish Revolutionary Union.”

Added to Irish Brigade records in Germany

Another Zossen reference to McGoey, gives his trade as a "tuck pointer"

1915 Dec 2. Casement writes to von Baerle that McGoey was willing to join Irish Brigade

1915 Dec 5. J. McGoey arrives at Zossen. The men had no idea who he was. For example Rahilly wrote A short time before a Volunteer named McGoey had been dispatched to Ireland, but he was caught by the English and shot in Peterhead prison. McGoey was the mystery man of the Brigade. We knew nothing about him and he did not tell. Rumour said he was from a civilian prison camp, and he spoke with a Northern Ireland accent

1916 Jan. The early 1916 list of Egypt volunteers gives him as 32 years old, born Glasgow, next of kin Mrs Margaret McEaney. 41 North Burns, Chester le Street, Durham. Margaret McGoey marrying in Gateshead Sep 1910 to a James Mc Eneany

One can tie the birth of both John McGuay and Margaret McGuay to the same parents in Glasgow.

1916 Mar18 McGoey writes a farewell to his "comrades" apologising for his abrupt departure.

The excepts from Casements Diary (Irish Independent Apr 1922) show Casements confidence in McGoey, but he never did send the postcard to "Mr Hammond", but it is clear that Casement was expecting McGoey to travel from Danmark to England.

Casement's Diary

1916 Mar 19 Casement saw him off from the stairs of his hotel in Berlin at 7.30 am. The Admiralty provided a police agent “to get McGoey over the German frontier” to Warnemunde with no papers or passport and be put into Denmark, Casement adding that he was smuggled into Denmark “without the knowledge of the General Staff.”. McGoey left Casement a list of the surest men for the trip to Ireland: there are 19 men on that list, and McGoey says he had doubts about O'Toole

Casement's diary notes say that the real purpose of McGoey going to to Ireland was to get the heads in Ireland to call off the rising and merely try to land the arms safely and distribute these. Casement told McGoey to inform Dublin that he “strongly urged no ‘rising’” because of the insufficient German help. McGoey apparently agreed, telling Casement “It would be criminal, and he had long suspected the Germans of playing a double game.” Casement further explained “He would do anything I asked him. I told him it was necessary for me to keep silent as to my real opinions before the German General Staff and that when I took him to the Admiralty he must do the same.” An unfinished, crumpled note to his comrades in which McGoey tried to excuse his “apparently cold and feelingless departure” was retained by Casement.

Ten days after his departure, Casement found out that the General Staff now knew of McGoey’s journey.

Keogh says that McGoey was taken off a Swedish ship by the British in Kirkwall and shot the day before Good Friday 1916 at Peterhead Prison Scotland. Peterhead was fully equipped with a scaffold. He might have been taken to the quarry and shot but it would have been a lot easier to hang him. He does not appear on a list of spies executed. Zerhusen believes McGoey was a British Agent. But equally well he could have been a German agent. Probably McGoey was not an agent at all, but was pick up be the British as suspicious, and interrogated.

Casement later told his solicitor that McGoey, “formerly of Glasgow”, had been “taken off ship at Kirkwall.” He provided no source for that story. Casement then risked sending out a written message through Gertrude, written on the back of Cathal O’Byrne’s letter of 22 June 1916: “I want Joe McGarrity told about him as it was Joe sent him over to me…I fear they have him in their clutches.” This is while Casement was in prison awaiting trial in London, and implies that Casement thought that McGoey was alive at that date

1919 McGoey was mentioned by Frank Hall of MI5 who examined the letters that Casement left with the Blüchers, and noted “With regard to John McGoey who is referred to further on in the same letter as ‘the Volunteer who had come over from America in November (1915)’ and whom Casement refers to further down on the same page as having been ‘dispatched on Sunday 19th March (1916), to Denmark with instructions to reach Dublin without delay’; I have failed entirely to trace this man or to connect him in any way with our records. The name is no doubt an assumed one but we have no record of any person who would appear to have come from America at the time stated or to have come to this country from Denmark.”

Soit would appear that McGoey disappeared off the face of the earth when he left Berlin, and there is no record of his death or of any other sighting. He could have been a double agent for either the British or the Germans. The real McGoey might have been killed before he arrived in Zossen, by either the British or the Germans. The Irish army, in 1924, tried to find where he might have come from in Ireland, and failed (BMH in Dublin).

But with information from an American family, we can now be certain that he re-appeared in London

kiddonan castle

HMS Kidonan Castle

1916 Sep 26. Marries in West Ham, Essex, England to Ethel Edith Maud Wells . He is working as a ship's trimmer on HMS Kidonan Castle moored at Albert Docks (a ship's trimmer was basically a stoker of coal). His father is given as Patrick McGoey, a deceased platelayer

There's a Trimmer John McGoey listed in the Mercantile Marine Reserve medal rolls, he was entitled to the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. However he doesn't appear to have claimed them as there is no entry in the 'How issued or disposed of' column. His discharge book number is listed, 876858, rather than the name of the ship he served on.

McGoey qualified for the BWM & VM whilst serving with the Mercantile Marine Reserve. The award of medals to these men was administered by the Admiralty. By implication the likelihood is that he was in the Merchant Navy before serving in the Mercantile Marine Reserve, but if his name does not appear in their (Merchant Navy) rolls then he didn't satisfy any of the qualfying conditions for the award of any medals by the Board of Trade before he joined the MMR.

In March 1916 the Kidonan Castle was de-commissioned and converted into an Armed Merchant Cruiser and on 21st August 1916 joined the 10th Cruiser Squadron which was based at Glasgow. In 1917, on 17th January, she embarked the British Military Mission headed by Viscount Milner at Oban and took them to Murmansk where the Mission failed to prevent the Russians from negotiating with the Germans for peace. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, when Russia signed a separate with the Central Powers, was signed on 2nd March 1917 the day the Mission reached Scapa Flow.

1917 Jul 7. Kidonan was berthed at Princes Dock, Glasgow

1917 Jul 9. Captain notes in log "I've been Captain long enough to enter a nice round 1800 weather reports on Northern patrol.  In a few days, the ship will depart for the Atlantic.  I'm taking this opportunity at port to negotiate an assignment that will keep me in familiar waters.  To the adventurous soul who aspires to take the helm of this fine craft, I leave this manual to assist your navigation in passage along the Clyde. Good luck with the crew.  Competent seamen, but reckless at times.  They often lose gear during soundings, and during afternoon gun practice just a week and a half ago, they managed to shoot one of our own sea thermometers

 In December 1918 she was stood down as an AMC and transferred to the work of repatriating troops and in 1919 carried troops to Archangel to quell internal fighting and was the last ship to leave when the Allies withdrew. She then made a single trooping voyage to Shanghai before sailing to Vladivostock where, in March 1920, she embarked 1800 Yugoslavian refugees and took them to Gravosa in the Adriatic. I do not know when McGoey left the ship

His seamans card - date of birth correct, grey eyes and height, wife. The only ship listed 137450 is the Huronian

1918 Dec 7. Child born Anne Elizabeth McGoey . The Birth certificate gives her as born at 6 Lawrence St, Canning Town, daughter of Ethel Enid Maud McGoey, formerly Wells, and John McGoey, shipyard labourer, ex-stoker RN


SS Huronian

1920 Jun 23. Huronian leaves London with McGoey as a fireman in the crew. The SS Huronian was launched 16/02/1915, a 8766 ton cargo ship owned by Fredk. Leyland & Co., Liverpool. This seems to be the first time McGoey worked on the Huronian

1920 Jul 22. On the crew of SS Huronian, and jumps ship in New York. Document called  “Statement of Master Vessel Regarding Changes in Crew Prior To Departure”.  This shows 5 crew members as ‘deserters’ not reporting back to duty to go back to London on the vessel Huronian.  One of these men was John McGoey, age 34. 

1921 Jan 17. Living in Detroit, Michigan. His US Naturalization application dated Jan. 17, 1921 shows that he immigrated into New York on July 14, 1920.  He was living in 633 Baltimore Av, Detroit, Michigan at the time, and his occupation was a bricklayer. He states he was born 3rd Jun 1883 in Glasgow. He is 5ft 8inches, ruddy complexion 148 lbs, brown hair, grey eyes. It is the same height and the same grey eyes as the John McGoey who arrived in USA back in 1910, but his complexion has weathered from "fresh" to "ruddy" over the 10 years.

1921 Jan 24. His wife arrives in New Brunswick, Canada with their child Anne Elizabeth McGoey, and crosses into USA to be re-united with her husband

1924 Aug 26 Child born Jack McGoey

Chicago Tribune Tower under construction

1924. John McGoey is believed to have died in Chicago while working on the Chicago Tribune building, which was one of the first high-rise buildings being built.  Grandma always said that he fell and died.  His death cert shows that he indeed died from a fall from a height of 30 feet, but it was probably not the Tribune Tower.

1924 The Irish army tried to find where he might have come from in Ireland, and failed.

1925 Nov 16. There is a Cook County death record for John McGoey who dies at Evanston, Cook County. This is him from the death certificate. But his widow does re-marry remarkably quickly, although it would appear that this was in character, asshe must have married John McGoey after only knowing him a few months in 1916. He is buried at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Chagago

1926 Jan 25. His widow Ethel Edith Maud Wells marries Louis Edward Dorfman in Cook County, Illinois

Irish Brigade