Captain William R. Kennedy (1885-1931) was born in Carbonear, Newfoundland to the family of Captain Nicholas P. Kennedy (1848-1919) and Margaret Hamilton. Grandson of Captain Nicholas Kennedy (1807-1881) and Julia Kennedy (1808-?) of Crocker's Cove. And great grandson of Captain Nicholas Kennedy and Grace Young of Wexford, Ireland and Terence Kennedy and Mary Clarke of Crocker's Cove. He was Captain of the Luetta and the Jessie L. Smith and was Navigator of the ill-fated SS Viking when it was destroyed by an explosion in 1931. Although Captain William survived on a floating piece of the ships stern for 3 days and was rescued, he succumbed shortly afterward to pneumonia and died in St. John's. A full account of the S.S. Viking disaster as recorded in the St. John's Daily News provides the details of the ships journey which set out with NY film director Varick Frissell and his movie crew to capture additional footage of rolling icebergs for a film depicting the life of Arctic explorer Captain Bob Bartlett. The completed film ultimately titled "SS Viking" was thought permanently lost but eventually located. Captain William J. Kennedy appears on the 1921 Census with 5 of his brothers including Captain Nicholas J. Kennedy (1877-1942). Captain William also navigated for Captain Bob Bartlett on some of his Arctic Expedtions and perhaps was a crew member of the Effie M. Morrissey now the Schooner Ernestina docked in New Bedford, Massachusetts, one of the last remaining Essex-built schooners of the 19th century.
As reported in the St. John's Daily News, the complete story of the ill-fate SS Viking Part I and Part II & III There are also several pages are devoted to the loss of the SS Viking in John Felthams book (see Sources). Photocopy of SS Viking below obtained from the Maritime History Archives
Captain William J. Kennedy was asked by Varick Frissell to navigate the SS VIKING to the ice fields so that he obtain the final takes for the Holywood film he was producing. Both Kennedy and Frissell perished as a result of the expedition. Two decades later Varick's younger sister Antoinette "Toni" Frissell would be chosen as the photographer for the wedding of America's most famous First Family.
For those with greater interest in this story I recommend the documentary film by Victoria King "White Thunder" which is the story of Director Varick Frissell and his endeavor to bring the beauty of Newfoundland and Labrador to a wider audience.
Captain William R. Kennedy
"Obituary Ė The funeral of the late Capt. WILLIAM KENNEDY, navigator of the ill fated Viking took place March 26th. Interment was at Belvedere Cemetery, St. Johnís, and the service for the dead was read by Rev. Father M. Kennedy. Capt. Wm. Kennedy, son of the late Capt. Nicholas and Margaret Kennedy, formerly of Carbonear, was in his 45th year. His career has been short, but far from uneventful. At the age of ten years, he with his parents were inadvertently left behind on Labrador without food and were rescued just in time by Captain Delaney, of the S.S. Grand Lake. At the age of twenty he was Captain of the Jessie L. Smith, out of Crosbies, and during the war period he was in the Atilla when she was so fiercely shelled by the enemy. In November last, he left St. Johnís as mate of the John W. Miller, with Capt. Horwood and again was barely rescued in time, being taken from the sinking ship on Christmas Day by a German liner, reaching home on January 25th. He was offered three ships to navigate to the seal fishery, and on account of having made previous trips in her, he chose the Viking. After the explosion on the Viking, his unselfish devotion to duty, his unswerving loyalty to his comrades and his undying bravery, excited the admiration of the world. Torn and mangled, burned and crushed, he yet managed to exist on the floating wreckage for 44 hours, until rescued by the Sagona, and during that period, he exerted himself unceasingly on behalf of his two fellow survivors, both of whom have given unstinted testimony of the bravery and resourcefulness of Capt. Kennedy. The limit had, however, been reached. His terrible injuries, coupled with the exposure midst the northern ice floes proved too great and his soul passed away just prior to the arrival of the rescue ship to St. Johnís."From the Newfoundland Newspaper Bay Roberts Guardian Friday April 3, 1931
Mar. 19, 1931
From The Daily News
KENNEDY - On Monday evening on S.S. Sagona, Capt. Wm. KENNEDY, aged 45
years, leaving to mourn wife and two children, four sisters and five
brothers. Funeral on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. from 15 Job Street
LATE CAPTAIN KENNEDY
The body of the late Captain William KENNEDY, who died on S.S. Sagona at
6:15 o'clock yesterday, was taken in charge by Undertaker N.J. MURPHY and
taken to his late home Job's Street. His three brothers John KENNEDY, T.J.
KENNEDY and L.J. KENNEDY accompanied the remains.
~thanks goes to Sue O'Neil and John Baird for
the transcriptions of the St. John's Daily News~
Other Tidbits on the SS Viking:
Story of the SS Viking disaster from the front page of the New York paper "The Brooklyn Eagle"
The Sealing Voyage Newfoundland 1919
April 18, 1919 S.S. Viking, Capt. BARTLETT, arrives from Gulf fishery with 88 seals. 1919 Events of the Year. SJDN (see Sources)
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Atlantic Mariners: The Irish Kennedy's of Newfoundland