John Henry Lowrie Hayes was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England on 12 September 1884, the son of Andrew and Hannah Maria Hayes.
Having qualified as a sea-going engineer, he served in the Houston Line steamer Heliades from June 1906 to May 1907 as Fourth and then Third Engineer.
He then served in the SS Lord Stanley as Third Engineer until May 1909 after which he ‘swallowed the anchor’ and remained on shore to study for his Second Class Board of Trade Engineers certificate.
Having obtained this he joined the firm of Messrs Macvicar Marshall to serve on their vessel the SS Franklyn until August 1912. This was followed by a period as Second Refrigerating Engineer on the Clan MacEwen, owned by Messrs Cayzer Irvine and Company Ltd, where he remained until July 1913. After this he passed his First Class Board of Trade certificate and joined the Cunard Steamship Company. He first served on the Laconia and then the Ascania and eventually joined the crew of the Lusitania.
He was serving on the Lusitania when he married Jeanetta Brown Purves on 14 August 1914. To mark the occasion the bride and groom were presented with an ornamental marble clock by his colleagues. They set up home at 10 Leicester Road, Bootle, Lancashire.
On 12 April 1915 John Hayes engaged once more as Junior Fifth Engineer on board the Lusitania and joined the vessel three days later on the morning of 17 April, before she left Liverpool Pierhead for the last time. His monthly rate of pay for this engagement was £11-10s-0d (£11.50).
His name was also engraved on a brass plaque belonging to the Liverpool Branch of The Marine Engineers’ Association which used to be in the Britannia Rooms in the Cunard Building in Liverpool. Underneath the badge of the association was engraved:
"ROLL OF HONOUR
ATRIBUTE TO THE MEMORY OF
THE MEMBERS, WHO LOST THEIR LIVES
THROUGH ENEMY ACTION IN THE
GREAT WAR. 1914 - 1919"
followed by the names of the 226 former members.
The memorial is not in the building today however and its present whereabouts, if it has survived, are not known.
Administration of his estate was granted to his widow Jeanetta at Liverpool on 10 July 1915 and his effects amounted to £127-0s-0d. She doubtless also received the balance of wages owing to him in respect of his last voyage on the Lusitania, which was sent to the family in August of the same year. This was in respect of his service from 17 April until 8 May 1915 - 24 hours after the liner had foundered. The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited also granted a yearly pension to Jeanetta Hayes to compensate her for the loss of her husband, which amounted to £66-11s-8d (£66.58½) payable at the rate of £5-11s-0d (£5.55) per month.
Less than three weeks after his death, on 27 May 1915, Jeanetta Hayes gave birth to their only child, a daughter she named Jeanette, who never got to meet her father.
Having arrived safely in New York, he had his last glimpse of America when the liner began her return trip on the early afternoon of 1 May. She had been scheduled to sail that morning, but was delayed to embark passengers, some crew and cargo from the liner SS Cameronia, also a Cunarder, which had been requisitioned at the end of April by the British Admiralty for service as a troopship.
Engineer Hayes was killed just six days later when the Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-20, only 250 miles away from her home port and just 12 miles off the coast of southern Ireland. He was aged 30 years.
His body was never found and identified afterwards, so his name is embossed on the Mercantile Marine War Memorial at Tower Hill, London. He is also commemorated on the municipal war memorial in Stanley Road, Bootle, Merseyside. His name is not on one of the bronze panels on the main memorial, however, but on a semi-circular wall around it where later additions are displayed.