Mr Edward William Peter Barrows, better known as William, was born at 82 Nelson Street in Mile End, London, England on 5 November 1879, later being baptised on 30 November that same year in St Mary's, Spital Square.
He was the eldest child of Edward Charles Barrows (b. 1857), a hairdresser, and Sarah Stickland (b. 1859), natives of Norfolk and London respectively who had married on 19 January 1879. He had five known siblings: John Thomas (1881-1947), Robert (1883-1960), Mary Alice (1885-1975, later Mrs Henry Gilpin), Alfred (1888-1935) and Lilian Sarah (1889-1976).
He and his parents appear on the 1881 census living at 78 Vicarage Lane, West Ham, Essex but the whole family relocated sometime between 1885 and 1888 and settled in Old Machar, Aberdeen, Scotland, appearing there on the 1891 census at 36 Rosemount Place, 2 Rosemount House. The family would not remain there long after this and indeed returned to London shortly after the census was conducted; not long after their resettlement in Mile End William's father Edward died aged 34.
What became of the family then is not clear but William was shown working at sea in 1898 at age 18, serving as a steward on several crossings aboard Dominion out of Liverpool, stating his local address as 36 Derby Road, Bootle. His mother remarried in 1899, becoming Mrs Richard Harman. Her new husband Richard Harman (b. 1855 in London) was a carman before becoming a publican and had several children from a previous relationship. Harman and Barrows' mother had a child of their own, Walter, or "Wallie," (1901-1975) and the family made their home at 24 Nicholas Street, Mile End before moving to 34 Hanover Street, Islington by the time the 1911 census was conducted.
By 1906 Barrows was working as a waiter aboard Campania and was then residing at 75 Strand Road, Bootle. He appears again in July 1911, this time signing on for a voyage aboard Empress of Britain and his local address by then was 91 Claughton Road, Birkenhead; he deserted the ship on this occasion.
When he signed-on to the Titanic on 9 April 1912 Barrows gave his address as 34 Hanover Street, London. His previous ship had been the Empress of Britain and as a first class steward he received monthly wages of £3, 15s. That same day he wrote to his sister Mary:
My dear Mary,
I am glad to say that I signed on this afternoon on the "Titanic." I am sleeping aboard the ship tonight, we sail tomorrow all being well.
I managed to get a waiting jacket but I shall have to order a new uniform the next time home, as the new jacket is a little bit short but it will have to do this time.
I hope everything is all right at home. I have dropped in for a side job which will earn another couple of quid extra a voyage.
We are due home next Saturday fortnight.
Love & best wishes to all,
Your affectionate brother Will.
Place all laundry and things in middle draw in the chest of drawers in my room.
William Barrows, who was unmarried, died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified. His family were later assisted by the Titanic Relief Fund.
His mother eventually settled in Exeter, Devon and she died on 26 September 1953 aged 94, having outlived several of her children. His last surviving sibling was his unmarried sister Lilian who died on 1 April 1976 in Essex.
In June 2016 several of Barrows' personal items relating to Titanic were auctioned by his family, the lot including letters, telegrams, correspondence with insurance companies and photographs.