Master William Loch Coutts was born in Chatham, Kent, England on 16 October 1902.
He was the son of William Coutts (b. 1876), a gold and silver engraver and former soldier who hailed from Haddingtonshire, Scotland, and the former Minnie Trainor (b. 1876), who hailed from Ireland. His parents had married earlier in 1902 and he had a younger brother, Neville Leslie (b. 1908).
The 1911 census shows William and his family living at 5 Knox Buildings, Caledonian Road, Islington, London.
In early 1912 his father emigrated and after a while sent enough money to book second class passage on a ship to join him at their new home, 143 Fourth Avenue, Brooklyn, New York. His mother instead purchased third class tickets, hoping to save some money towards setting up their new home in America. They boarded Titanic at Southampton on 10 April 1912 (ticket number C.A. 37671 which cost £15, 18s).
At the time of the collision the Coutts family were asleep in their cabin. The crash was slight but was enough to stir his mother who got up and dressed and went to investigate where she overheard murmurs of trouble. She returned to the cabin and dressed her two sons, tying lifebelts on them both. She looked around the cabin for a life vest for herself but could not find one and wasting no more time left the cabin with her boys in tow.
The family made their way to the communal areas of steerage but could not find any way of getting anywhere close to the lifeboats. When they had begun to give up hope a seaman came along and said "Hurry now, all women and children to the lifeboats..." and he led her to the boat deck. Arriving there Mrs Coutts explained to the crewman that she had no lifebelt for herself; an unidentified American man overheard this conversation and stepped forward, raised his hat and removed his own lifebelt, giving it to her, saying "Take my life preserver, madam." He then patted the heads of her two young sons and asked "If I go down, please pray for me." In another account Mrs Coutts related that it was a crewman or officer who offered up a lifebelt after he brought her to his own cabin.
William's daughter further relates that he had been wearing a straw boater hat and, perhaps looking too mature, was initially refused entry into a lifeboat to which Mrs Coutts exclaimed "if he doesn't go, we aren't going."
William, his mother and brother escaped in lifeboat 2 and he was reunited with his father in Brooklyn. To commemorate the survival the elder William Coutts engraved a locket with their names and the date of the sinking, the piece containing photographs of his wife and sons. The locket is still in the possession of the family to this day.
Initially settling in New York, around 1920 William and his family settled in Dormont, Allegheny, Pennsylvania. In later years William was married to a lady named Alma Blanch Eiferd (b. 22 April 1912), a native of Pennsylvania, and the couple initially settled in Dormont, appearing as residents there on the 1930 census; they would be living in Pittsburgh by the time of the 1940 census.
William later worked as a professional musician, playing guitar and banjo at the William Penn Theatre and giving lessons. For many years he served as a manager for the Household Finance Corps before working as a credit manager for the Rubber Products Co. of Pittsburgh. During his career he was held at gunpoint six times.
He and his wife had two daughters: Fay Alma (1930-1997, later Mrs Percy Henry Blettner) and Barbara (b. 1932, later McKinley and again Kharouf) and in later years the family lived at 561 South Negley Avenue, Pittsburgh where William was a member of the Masonic Lodge. He was made a widow when his wife Alma passed away on 19 August 1956.
In April 1956 Mr Coutts watched the Kraft adaptation of A Night to Remember from a hospital bed at the Shadyside Hospital, suffering from low blood pressure and a heart ailment. His mother had also seen the screenplay and wrote to him about it, stating "there wasn't that much excitement." Coutts was in high praise for the play, his only criticism being that he noticed no mention of the Carpathia.
On 25 December 1957 William Coutts was found dead in South Water Street, Steubenville, Ohio and his car was found parked in the same street. At age 55 he had died of a stroke and was buried at Sunset View Cemetery, Pittsburgh.