William 'Willie' Clifford Weller1 was born at 16 Pier Road, Littlehampton, Sussex, England on 20 November 1881.
He was the youngest son of James Weller (1838-1900), a mariner, and Jessie Colbury Heard (1846-1937). Whilst his father was also native to Littlehampton his mother was born in Southampton; the couple were married in Worthing district in early 1864 and went on to produce seven children (that are known of): Jessie Louisa (b. 1865), James Edward Rothwell (b. 1867), John Stenkley Charles (b. 1871), Thomas George (b. 1873), Ernest (b. 1875), Richard Harold (b. 1878) and William (b. 1881).
In the months prior to William's birth his family were recorded on the 1881 census living at 16 Pier Road, Littlehampton. William appears on the 1891 census living at 6 Parkstone Villas, Newhaven, Sussex and he was still a schoolboy by that time.
He later went to sea, serving with the Royal Navy, and joined his first ship HMS Northampton (see naval record) on 20 January 1899. He was recorded on the 1901 census as a member of the crew aboard the Trafalgar, the docked at Portland, Dorset. When he joined the merchant service is not clear but by the time of the 1911 census he was listed as a visitor at an address in North Mundham, Chichester, Sussex and was described as a mariner. He was visiting the home of a William Beeden, a shepherd, and his family whose daughter Susanna Kate (b. 1887) was to become William's wife.
Susanna Kate Beeden was born in Hunston, Sussex on 18 September 1887. She later worked as a cook and appears on the 1911 census in that capacity at Donnington Vicarage, Donnington, Chichester, Sussex. William Weller and Susanna were married in Southampton in the second half of 1911 and settled in that city. As a couple they went on to have four sons: Stanley William (1912-1937), Ernest Clifford (1915-1972) Frederick Charles (1918-1977) and John Henry (1923-2008).
When he signed on to the Titanic, on 6 April 1912, he gave his address as Holyrood House, (Southampton). His previous ship had been the Olympic and as an able-bodied seaman he could expect to earn monthly wages of £5. He had been serving aboard Olympic during her collision with HMS Hawke in September 1911. On that occasion his wages were stopped when the accident occured. He claimed his full month's wages and when the White Star Line refused and only paid him for three days. He and another man then attempted to sue the White Star Line for damages but he was unsuccessful.
On the night of the sinking, Weller left the Titanic on the first lifeboat to be lowered, number 7, at 12.45 am. He was returned to Britain aboard the Lapland. He was given a note that he would be required to testify at the Brtish inquiry into the sinking. In the event he was not called.
Summons for Titanic inquiry
William Weller in the 1920s
(National Archives / Gavin Bell)
William Weller continued working at sea into the 1920s and beyond. He later battled tuberculosis and died at his home, 17 Beatrice Road, Southampton, on 1 May 1954 aged 72.
His widow Susanna continued to live in Southampton and died in 1972 aged 85. His last surviving child, John died in Southampton in early 2008.
William Weller (9th January 1943)
(Courtesy of Steven Wooding)