Mr Vivian Arthur Ponsonby Payne was born in Montréal, Québec on 12 June 1888.
He was the son of an English father, John Payne (b. 23 December 1841 in Oxfordshire) and an Anglo-Canadian mother, Harriet Maud De Burgh Moffett (b. 17 November 1859 in Québec) who had married in Owen Sound, Ontario on 26 January 1886.
He had one sibling, his elder brother Reginald (b. 12 November 1886).
He and his family appear on the 1901 census living at an unspecified address in the Saint-Antoine ward of Montréal and his father was described as being employed in the railway "field"; Payne's father was a long-term employee and accountant with Hays and Grand Trunk Railways.
Vivian's father died when he was thirteen and Charles Melville Hays, the company president of Hays and Grand Trunk Railways, became a surrogate father to the boy, having had no sons of his own. He attended Montréal High School where he was described as "a brilliant student, his standing was won not only by his superior ability but by hard work." After graduation he became Hays' private secretary, working for the Grand Trunk and running errands between the Montréal and Ottawa offices; "Mr Payne had the knack of making friends without any effort on his part, and attracted to himself everyone with whom he came into contact." observed the Montréal Herald.
He was still living with his mother, brother and also elderly grandmother Harriett Moffett (b. 1826) by the time of the 1911 census, still in Saint-Antoine, Montréal.
Payne accompanied Charles Hays, his wife Clara, daughter Orian and her husband Thornton and the family maid Mary Anne Perrault on a trip to Europe, his first trip abroad. He wrote his mother stating how astonished he was at how green the countryside in England was in March; the vacation was cut short when Hays learned that his daughter Louise was having complications in the last stages of her pregnancy; also, he wanted to be back home for the imminent opening of his new hotel, the Château Laurier in Ottawa.
Payne and the Hays party boarded the Titanic at Southampton as first class passengers, he travelling on the Hays ticket (12749 which had cost £93) and whilst aboard occupied cabin B24.
Vivian Payne died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified.
As soon as she heard the ship had sunk Payne's mother held a vigil outside White Star Offices in Montréal and pleaded for news; "Can't you find out something about my boy?" she is quoted in the Toronto Globe, "He was my baby and he is only 22. Do you not think that Mr Hays would see that he was saved?" A Brass tablet in his memory was erected in Montréal's Christ Church Anglican Cathedral by "123 of his associates."
His mother died in Montréal in November 1929 and was buried in Mount Royal Cemetery in that city.