Ernest Wainwright St Clair was born in Waterloo, Liverpool, Lancashire, England on 22 January 1893.
He was the son of James Chadwick St Clair, an entertainer (ventriloquist) originally from Liverpool, and Alice Margaret Cunnion, a native of Durham. He had six siblings.
Ernest left school at 18, deciding that life at sea was the route for him; he first sailed aboard Lusitania before joining the Carpathia. In April 1912 he was serving as a waiter aboard the eastward-bound voyage of the Carpathia when that ship rescued the survivors of the Titanic. He later said of the incident:
Our wireless operator by a mere freak of fate had put on his headphones for a moment before going off duty and heard the dreaded CQD from the Titanic on her maiden and last voyage… The survivors were cared for and the dead buried with impressive and simple ceremony. With all speed me made for New York. A short religious service was held in the saloon as we passed over the spot where the Titanic sank. We passed the enormous black iceberg which had sealed the Titanic’s doom… It is a night I will never forget.
Ernest, a Freemason and keen amateur photographer, later served during WWI and was present at Ypres. He was married in September 1920 to Bertha May Fletcher (b. 1896) and had two children. He later left the sea and worked in the catering business and, during WWII, he lost his sight in one eye as the result of a bombing at Liverpool’s North Market. Retiring from catering at age 66 he then spent over a decade working for an electrical wholesaler before calling it a day at the ripe age of 80.
Ernest St Clair and his wife lived for many years at Mill Lane in Wavertree. Becoming a widower in 1976, Ernest rallied for half a decade more until his death in Liverpool in 1982 aged 89.