Encyclopedia Titanica

William Stephen Faulkner

William Stephen Faulkner
William Stephen Faulkner

Mr William Stephen Faulkner was born in Oxton, Birkenhead, Cheshire, England on 31 March 1877.

He was the son of Samuel Faulkner (1852-1931), an iron turner and a professional cricketer, and Harriett Elizabeth Jenkins (1858-1928). His father was a native of Birkenhead and his mother from Southampton and they had married in Liverpool's St Paul's Church on 9 March 1875. His cricketer father was later a steward of the Birkenhead Constitutional Club and was well-known in the locality.

William was the eldest of ten children, two of whom died in infancy. His siblings were: George (1875-1877), Henry Victor (b. 1879), Beatrice Helen (b. 1881), Harriet Maud (b. 1884), Charles Frederick (b. 1890), Florence Mary (b. 1892), Mildred Muriel (b. 1894), Lester (b. 1896) and Frank (1898-1898). His brother Charles would also go to sea and would be a member of the crew on board SS Republic in 1906 when that liner collided with the Italian steamer Florida and sank.

William Faulkner
William Faulkner as a younger man
(Birkenhead and Cheshire Advertiser, 20 April 1912)

William first appears on the 1881 census whilst living with his grandparents William and Jane Faulkner at 24 Bright Street, Birkenhead; his parents and younger brother Henry were listed at an address in Oxton Village. The 1891 census has William and his family living at 24 Mornington Street; William, aged 14, had already left school and is working as an office boy.

Faulkner later went to sea, working for the Pacific and Booth Lines before joining the White Star Line. He first appears on crew records in 1893 when, aged 16, he was working as a smoke room boy aboard Britannia, his ship prior to that being the New York; a year later he was engaged to join the same ship as an engineer's servant but failed to join on that occasion.

He was married in Birkenhead in 1899 to Sybil Isabel Beams (b. 19 June 1871 in Ewell, Surrey) and they would have four children, three living past infancy. Son Frank Victor arrived on 4 October 1900 followed by son Leonard Henry on 30 October 1903 and daughter Eileen Marie on 6 May 1906. Another child, daughter Dorothy Adeline Sybil was born in early 1905 but lived just a short while.

The 1901 census shows that William was absent from the home but his wife and first child were living at 76 Woodville Road, Birkenhead. He would be absent again from the 1911 census, his family then living at 16 Mounsey Road, Birkenhead.

When he signed on to the Titanic on 4 April 1912 Faulkner gave his address as 16 Mounsey Road Birkenhead. His previous ship had been the Celtic and as a first class bedroom steward, he could expect to earn monthly wages of £3, 15.

On the night of the sinking, William was assisting to fill and lower the aft starboard lifeboats. He was reportedly handed the infant Trevor Hudson Allison, a first class passenger, whilst the child's nanny Alice Catherine Cleaver was assisted into lifeboat 11. William, with a child in his arms, was permitted to follow suit. Following rescue by the Carpathia, and during the voyage to New York, Faulkner was reportedly the only person whom Alice Cleaver would let visit the orphaned child.

Faulkner, not being required to testify at either the US or British Inquiries into the disaster, returned to England and continued a career at sea into the 1920s and beyond. The mid-1920s saw him serving aboard the Adriatic; in 1930 he began a long career with the Britannic (1930-1960) and was still shown working as a bath steward aboard that vessel in November 1944.

In his final years, William Faulkner and his family lived at 20 Greenbank Drive, Pensby in the Wirral. He was preceded in death by his wife Sybil who passed away following a long illness on 12 November 1941.

William Faulkner battled in his last months with stomach cancer; bronchopneumonia hastened his demise and he passed away at the Royal Infirmary, Liverpool on 22 September 1949 aged 72.   He was buried 26 September 1949 in Landican Cemetery and Crematorium, Wirral, Merseyside, England, in section 2 C/E, plot 746.

His son Frank later worked as a shipbuilding electrician; he married Sybil Mutch (b. 1905) in 1927 and had two children, a daughter Doreen (b. 1929) and son Brian (b. 1937). He died in Birkenhead on 12 January 1983.

Son Leonard later worked as a shipwright; he was married in 1929 to Nellie Hunt (b. 1904) and raised a family. He died in Birkenhead in 1976.

Daughter Eileen later worked as a clerk; she never married and died in Birkenhead on 31 July 1975. 

Titanic Crew Summary

Name: Mr William Stephen Faulkner
Age: 37 years and 15 days (Male)
Nationality: English
Marital Status: Married to Sybil Isabel Beams
Last Ship: Celtic
Embarked: Belfast on Monday 1st April 1912
Rescued (boat 11)  
Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
Cause of Death:
Buried: Landicran Ceemtery, Birkenhead, Lancashire, England on Monday 26th September 1949

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Newspaper Articles

Birkenhead News (20 April 1912) Mr. William Faulkner Reported safe.
Liverpool Daily Post (15 November 1941) Death Notice (of Sybil Isabel Faulkner)


William Stephen Faulkner 1920s
Liverpool Echo (1912) William Faulkner

Documents and Certificates

1881, 1891, 1901, 1911 Census (England)
Agreement and Account of Crew, National Archives, London; BT100/259
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Comment and discuss

  1. Charles Provost

    Charles Provost said:

    Hi, did steward Faulkner had his section on C-deck forward, where the Allisons had their cabins? In his memoirs, Faulkner remembered the story about Howard Case who was transferred from his cabin E-66 to a stateroom on C-deck. The question is: if Faulkner waited on for Mr Case, that would immediatly means that Case had his stateroom on the port side, forward, on C-deck? It would be more easy to put him in a specific cabin, no? Many thanks for the person who can help me! Best regards, Charles

  2. Tarn Stephanos

    Tarn Stephanos said:

    I couldn't help but notice there was a person named Willam S Faulkner on the Titanic- Faulkner was my mother's mother's family name- my great Grand father Arthur Newton Faulkner moved to the US from Great Britian in 1918. I realize Faulkner is a common family name- But I'm curious- there just MIGHT be a chance, however slim, that I am related to this chap who was on the Titanic. Any suggestions as to how I might determine if the Faulkners in my family were related to the Faulkner on Titanic? Does anyone have any interesting details about Mr. Faulkner's life?

  3. Bob Godfrey

    Bob Godfrey said:

    Faulkner was a bedroom steward in 1st Class, not a passenger. His chief claim to fame was that he helped Alice Cleaver and Trevor Allison into a lifeboat (then boarded himself). He was born in Birkenhead (near Liverpool) and never left the UK except in the course of his duties at sea, which continued until the 1940s. In 1912 there were around 12,000 people in the UK called Faulkner. Figure the odds for a connection! If you still think it's worth bothering, work backwards from yourself to establish your own family genealogy and see who turns up. But in reality a coincidence of name... Read full post

  4. Tarn Stephanos

    Tarn Stephanos said:

    Well, if you go far enough back, we are all related in one way or another- But I must admit, discovering a Faulkner was on board- and possibly a distant relative, makes me feel closer to Titanic. My other family names, Stephanos, Smithers & Coyle don't appear on titanic's passenger list- so I doubt any ancestors in those families were on Titanic- But as for Faulkner, it's a possibility...

  5. Bob Godfrey

    Bob Godfrey said:

    Speaking of coincidence - I had a great uncle Fred who worked as a steward on passenger liners prior to the First World War, but I could find no trace of him after the last available census returns in 1901. His full name was Frederick Charles Simmons. One of the Titanic victims was a steward called Frederick C Simmons, who was the same age as Uncle Fred. A connection for sure, I thought. But eventually a family member remembered old Fred turning up at a family gathering in the 1930s. I was of course most disappointed to learn that Uncle Fred had not died a horrible death in the North... Read full post

  6. Tarn Stephanos

    Tarn Stephanos said:

    It must be tricky for any person named 'Smith' to determine if they were related to any of the 'Smiths' on Titanic, seeing how 'Smith' is the most common English name..(or is it Jones?) There must be millions of Smiths worldwide..... My mothers maiden name was Smithers, which is a variation of Smith... I didn't realze there were so few Faulkners in the UK....

  7. Bob Godfrey

    Bob Godfrey said:

    There were around half a million Smiths here in the UK in 1912. And about a quarter of a million Jones. For names which are not especially common (like Faulkner, Godfrey and Simmons) 10-20.000 is typical. The one representative of your own clan who'd appeared on the previous census - Alvis Stephanos - had moved on!

  8. Tarn Stephanos

    Tarn Stephanos said:

    Next month I will be attending a Faulkner family get together- (my mother's mother's family were the Faulkners). A cousin is trying to trace our family tree, and make note of all the related Faulkners who were famous in their own right, or were involved in historic events- I'd like to determine if the Faulkner on the Titanic was a relative of mine.. The bio on Mr Faulkner on ET is miniscule- does anyone know details of Mr Faulkner's life- the name of his parents-or kids; where he lived in England, when and where he died, and if there is a known photo of him? This information may... Read full post

  9. Brian J. Ticehurst

    Brian J. Ticehurst said:

    Hello Tarn- Here is my print out on Mr. Faulkner - I hope that it helps? Cheers Brian FAULKNER, WILLIAM STEPHEN. Saved in Lifeboat number 11. Lived at 16 Malmesbury Road, Shirley, Southampton. Occupation- Bedroom Steward. 33 years old. (Born in Birkenhead). Ship before the RMS Titanic was the RMS Celtic. (From the Birkenhead News April 20th 1912) Mr. William Faulkner Reported safe. Probably among the best known of the Birkenhead members of the crew of the Titanic is Mr. William Faulkner, who was a steward on board the ship. Mr. Faulkner is the son of Mr. Samuel Faulkner, steward of... Read full post

  10. Tarn Stephanos

    Tarn Stephanos said:

    My goodness Brian, you gave be a treasure trove of valuable information. Thank you VERY much! regards Tarn Stephanos

  11. Tarn Stephanos

    Tarn Stephanos said:

    I just discovered I am related to 2 Faulkners who were killed in the Halifax explosion of 1917- If I am related to the Faulkner who was on the Titanic, then it will be apparent that I am related to both a survivor of the Titanic and his sibling who was a survivor of the the Republic sinking...

  12. Tarn Stephanos

    Tarn Stephanos said:

    Latest word is that my grandmother's parents (William and Amy Faulkner) migrated to Canada from Scotland around 1907- So I'm left to wonder if the Scottish Faulkner families were in any way related to the English Faulkner on Titanic..

  13. Clancy McNally

    Clancy McNally said:

    Hello to everyone who has answered. I've been told my whole life that someone in my family died on the Titanic, or that they were saved but never really heard from again. I've also been told that someone in my family fought in the Civil War. My grandfather's last name was Faulkner.

  14. Al Holmes

    Al Holmes said:

    This William Faulkner Would Have Been My 3rd cousin 3 generations removed..I have almost a complete family history if anyone is interested

  15. debsylady

    debsylady said:

    Hi all.I am trying to find the family history of William Stephen Faulkner,i know his wife was Sybil Isabel Beams and his father was Samuel Faulkner and Williams home adress was Mounsey Road Birkenhead.I cant find his date of death or if he had children ect. Any info on his history would be very much apreciated. Many Thanks Debs.

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Trevor Baxter, UK
Gavin Bell, UK
Peter Engberg Klarström, Sweden
Photo: National Archives (Courtesy of Gavin Bell)