Mr William Clark was born in the small port town of Greenore in Carlingford, Co Louth, Ireland on 7 July 1869.
Born into a Roman Catholic family who were largely illiterate, he was the son of labourer Thomas Clark (b. circa 1835) and the former Anne Rafferty (b. circa 1837).
He had nine known siblings: twins Peter and James (b. 20 June 1865), Charles (b. 11 August 1867), Patrick (b. 22 September 1871), Mary (b. 8 May 1874), Matthew (b. 26 June 1876), Hugh (b. 15 November 1877), Joseph (b. 1 May 1879) and Bernard (b. 27 February 1883).
The Clark family appears on the 1901 census living at house 4 in Greenore, William’s mother by then a widow; his father had passed away a few months earlier from heart disease on 10 November 1900. A veteran of the Boer War, William himself was not listed with his family on the census and was presumably in South Africa at the time.
By the time of the 1911 census, Clark’s mother and three of his brothers were still residing in Greenore. His mother remained there until her death from old age and senility on 22 June 1917.
William was also listed on the 1911 census, living at 30 Paget Street in Southampton and described as a labourer in a foundry. Also listed at the address were Mrs Mary Jane Humphreys1 and her family, the wife of dock labourer William Humphreys. Although listed as married on the census, Clark was a single man and if there was any relationship between he and Mrs Humphreys, this is purely speculative.
When he signed-on to the Titanic on 6 April 1912 Clark gave his address as 30 Paget Street, Southampton. His previous ship had been the Avon and as a fireman he received monthly wages of £6. He was rescued in lifeboat 15.
Clark later served as a fireman aboard the Empress of Ireland, his first voyage aboard that ship, and survived that liner’s demise in 1914; interviewed about his miraculous escape, Mr Clark said:
Even now I can hardly believe that I am the only man in the world who has sailed in the two ill-fated liner and had survived the two greatest shipping disasters of modern days. If there’s any luck on the sea, surely I have had it all… It was my first voyage aboard the Empress; of course also on the Titanic, which was on her maiden trip. There is a sort of superstition among sailors, and I believe it applies on land as well, that the third time is fatal, but that does not worry me. I am going back to Liverpool to find a job on another steamer. Compared with the Titanic, the scene son the Empress of Ireland were not nearly so frightful. Death came more swiftly. - Northern Daily Mail, 10 June 1914
''Fireman E. Clarke, of Liverpool, one of the survivors from the Empress of Ireland, was also in the Titanic when she went down. ''I have done with the sea, ''he told an interviewer; this last affair has settled it. It's me for the shore. I'm not going to risk a third time. I was in No. 15 boat when the Titanic was lost, and I helped to save lives. Just starting my watch I was, and we had lots of time to lower the boats.....'' (Luton Times and Advertiser, June 12, 1914)
The Northern Daily Mail reporter that interviewed Clark described him as “Dark-haired and blue-eyed, he is a typical Liverpool Irishman, 43 years of age, unmarried, and lives in Derby-road, Bootle.”
Several newspapers reported that, with the outbreak of war in 1914, William Clark rejoined the British Army. After that his whereabouts remain unknown.