Mr William Wright was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England on 28 December 1864 and later baptised on 29 January 1865 in St Thomas' Church, Toxteth. His address at the time was 68, Court 9, Upper Mann Street, Toxteth.
He was the son of Thomas Wright (b. 1837), an iron foundry labourer, and Mary Ann Haynes (b. 1841), both natives of Cheshire. His father had a previous short-lived marriage to Hannah Dodd (d. 1859) and had a son from that relationship, John Ephraim Wright (b. 1857).
William had three siblings: James (b. 1871), Sarah Anne (b. 1873) and Thomas Edward (b. 1881).
He first appears on the 1871 census as a resident of 24 Tamworth Street, Toxteth, his father then described as a labourer; by the time of the 1881 census the home address was 42 Ponsonby Square and a 16-year-old William was described as a clerk.
He was married on 29 January 1888 to Mary Clarke (b. 1861), a native of Liverpool and daughter of labourer William Clarke. William and Mary had four children, three surviving infancy: William James (1888-1957), Albert (b. 1890) and Sarah Ann (1894-1923). Another daughter, Frances Mary (b. 16 April 1892) died in late 1893 before even reaching her second birthday.
The 1891 census shows William and his family at 33 Keats Street, Bootle; he was then described as a ship's steward. By the time of the 1901 census they had moved to 2 Hilshaw Street, Everton; they were still present there at the time of the 1911 census but William was absent and presumably at sea.
Exactly when William went to sea is not certain but he appears on crew manifests as early as 1887 when working aboard Sobralense as assistant steward on one voyage and boots steward on another. He served on Lake Ontario sometime around the turn of the century and by September 1902 and into March 1903 he was shown working aboard Haverford. He was aboard Olympic at the time of the Hawke collision. A discharge book describes him as standing at 5' 6" with brown hair, grey eyes and a fair complexion; he had two dots (tattoos) at the base of his left thumb.
When he signed-on to the Titanic on 4 April 1912 Wright gave his local address as 9 Emsworth Road, Southampton. His previous ship had been the Olympic and as a glory hole steward he received monthly wages of £3, 15s.
On the night of the sinking Wright had been off duty and was in bed asleep when the collision occurred. The impact was enough to wake him but at first did not think anything serious could be amiss. Nonetheless he went on deck where he was eventually ordered into lifeboat 13 to help man the oars, he estimating there to be 70 persons in the craft. He recalled the bitter cold and the desperate cries of those struggling in the water once the ship had plunged.
"...it was a black night, and so cold that it felt like being in an iceberg. It was about break of day when on the horizon, we sighted the headlights of the Carpathia. Never was there so welcome a sight. Of course, we did not know what vessel she was, but we did know that she meant salvation for us. Even at this hour, when we realised that rescue was at hand and that the frail craft in which we had pulled from the wreck was to be exchanged for the security of a liner's deck, we had no idea that so many lives had gone. We lost everything, and I looked a regular wreck when we reached New York."
(Southend Standard, 16 May 1912)
Wright survived the sinking and eventually returned to England; he was not called to give evidence at either the British or American Inquiries into the sinking.
Back in England Wright attended the funeral of fellow steward and colleague Arthur Lawrence who was buried in West Derby Cemetery on 13 May 1912; he stated that although he was not intimate with Lawrence they had worked with each other for about five years.
Wright continued his career at sea; he was made a widower in 1917 and the following year was working aboard Adriatic and by 1923 as a bedroom steward aboard Samaria. Later that same year he saw a brief spell aboard Baltic as a glory-hole steward. By 1924 he had already commenced a long service as a glory-hole steward aboard Cedric and was still shown working aboard her as late as 1930 at the age of 66, although he had shaved a few years off of his true age, and it appears that he retired that same year. Immigration records describe him as standing at 5' 6" and weighing 140 lbs.
His last address was 57 York Terrace, Liverpool; he died there aged 75 on 23 February 1940 as a result of heart failure and pneumonia. He was buried in West Derby Cemetery with his wife and daughter but the headstone has since disappeared. It read:
In loving memory of our dear mother & father
Died 3rd Dec 1917 aged 50 years
and William Wright
Died 23rd Feb 1940 aged 75 years
Survivor of RMS Titanic
also Sarah Ann Dewhurst
Daughter of the above
Died 14th Sep 1923 aged 28 years
A death notice appeared in the Liverpool Echo on 26 February 1940:
WRIGHT--February 23, at his residence, 57 York Terrace, aged 75 years, WILLIAM WRIGHT, R.M.S. Titanic survivor, Internment at West Derby
Cemetery, tomorrow (Tuesday), at 3 p.m.