Mr William "Willie" Skeates 1 was born in Penton Grafton, Hampshire, England over the spring months of 1889 2.
He was the son of Fanny Skeates, née Alexander (b. 1854), a native of Fyfield, Hampshire. Fanny had been married in 1875 to Nathaniel Skeates (b. 1848 in Appleshaw, Hampshire) who worked as a labourer. The couple had five children: Edith Fanny (b. 1874), Elizabeth Annie (b. 1875), George (b. 1877), Edmund (b. 1879) and Robert (b. 1885). Nathaniel Skeates died in 1886 leaving the identity of William's father uncertain.
He appears on the 1891 census living at an unspecified address in Penton Grafton and his widowed mother is working as a laundress to support her children. She was remarried later that year to George Hayes and had a son named Albert in 1892. That marriage was again cut short and Fanny Skeates was again a widow by the time she and her sons appeared on the 1901 census, then living at 24 South Street, Andover. What became of Fanny Skeates is not certain and it is possible that she again remarried.
By the time of the 1911 census William was lodging at 29 King Street, St Mary, Southampton and was described as a labourer who had been married for five years. His wife was a woman named Edith Mary (b. 1874 in King's Somborne, Hampshire) and together they had two children: William Reginald (1907-1987) and Ellen Maud (1909-1976, later Mrs Ernest William Fulford).
When he signed on to the Titanic, on 6 April 1912, William gave his address as 29 King Street, (Southampton). His previous ship had been the Majestic and as a trimmer he could expect to earn monthly wages of £5, 10s.
William Skeates died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified.
The following death notice appeared in the Hampshire Chronicle (26 April 1912):
SKEATES--On April 14th, drowned on the Titanic, William Skeates (formerly of Andover), aged 23.
His widow is not believed to have remarried and she continued to live in Southampton. She died on 24 November 1938 and is buried in St Mary Extra Cemetery, Portsmouth Road, Southampton. William is remembered on her headstone:
IN LOVING MEMORY OF
EDITH MARY SKEATES
FELL ASLEEP 24TH NOVEMBER 1938
AGED 64 YEARS
AND OF HER BELOVED HUSBAND
WHO LOST HIS LIFE THROUGH THE
FOUNDERING OF THE S.S. TITANIC
15TH APRIL 1912, AGED 37 YEARS [sic]
HOW WE MISS OUR BELOVED PARENTS
ACHING HEARTS CAN NEVER TELL,
WE HAVE LOST THEM, HEAVEN FOUND THEM
JESUS HATH DONE ALL THINGS WELL
- Spelling varies on records between Skeats and Skeates
- Age disputed. The crew agreements give his age as 26. The previous year on the 1911 census he gave his age as 27. He appears on the 1891 census as a two-year-old and the 1901 census as a nine-year-old. At the time of his death a death notice carried in the Hampshire Chronicle gives his age as 23 which supports the 1889 birthdate.