Mr Richard William May

RMS Titanic Cross-Channel Passenger

Richard William May

Mr Richard William May was born in St Mary at Hill, Billingsgate in the City of London on 5 March 1858, the son of Richard William May (1832-1887) and Susan Ellen Mann (1833-1913).  His father had risen from being a porter to becoming a successful fishmonger at Billingsgate fish market.1

He had six siblings: Philip Charles May (1859–1900), Walter Moss May (1861–1893), Stanley James May (1866–1946), Susan Amy May (1868–1950), Lily May (1871–1966) and Fred May (1872–1936).

In 1912 Richard May was joining other members of his family for a motoring holiday in Ireland. They were his brother Stanley, and sister Lily, her son Jack and her husband Herbert Odell's sister Kate.  Herbert Odell himself bought the ticket for six people but in the end did not join the trip.

Richard seems to have had a keen interest in transport, and the Olympic class ships, he may possibly have had a business interest in the White Star Line itself.  Therefore it is likely that they deliberately chose the Titanic for the trip to Ireland.2   

Odell and May Family
Left to right: Richard May, Lily Odell, Stanley May and Jack Odell, on the boat deck of the Titanic. Photograph taken by Kate Odell.

Richard May and the rest of the party disembarked the Titanic at Queenstown to continue their holiday.

After the Titanic disaster, Richard May corresponded with fellow cross-channel passenger Father Francis Browne regarding his photographs of the Titanic.

Richard May continued the fish-market business, he never married.  He died in Twickenham, London on 21 March 1938.


  1. When he died in 1887, Richard William May Sr left 10,030 9s 8d, (approximately equivalent to £1.3m in 2020)
  2. In 1910, Richard had apparently sought permission from Harland & Wolff to attend the launch of the Olympic but received a letter of refusal signed by Lord Pirrie himself.  Nevertheless, a launch ticket for the Olympic was amongst a large collection of transport-related ephemera collected by Richard May which was later auctioned.

Research Articles

John Atkinson ('Brian Odell') Titanica! (2011) The Odell Titanic Album
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Comment and discuss

  1. maurya m. green said:

    I am interested in finding out any information on the May family that disembarked in Queenstown with Father Browne.

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Portrait of Richard May by Reginald George Jennings (1920) courtesy of Henry Aldridge & Son

Link and cite this biography

Encyclopedia Titanica (2021) Richard William May (ref: #2219, last updated: 1st May 2021, accessed 14th June 2021 01:00:12 AM)

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