William Henry Lyons was born in Cork City, Co Cork, Ireland in 1886, his birth being registered in the closing months of that year.
William was the son of Henry Lyons (b. 1857) and Catherine O'Keeffe (b. 1856), Cork natives who had married in the early months of 1885 and went on to have three children, all sons, of whom William was the eldest. William's brothers were: Denis James (b. 1888) and John Frederick (b. 1890).
William grew up in a comfortable middle-class Roman Catholic family. His father was described as a publican on the 1901 census and vintner (winemaker) on the 1911 census. His brother Denis was a civil engineer and his brother John a medical student as per the 1911 census which also indicated that the young men were fluent in both the English and Irish languages. William was not present for the 1911 census but it is likely that he received the same privileged education and could speak in Irish tongue.
William appears on the 1901 census of Ireland (address uncertain) with his family. Neither he nor his mother Catherine were present on the 1911 census but his father and brothers were listed as living at 7 Meat Market Lane in Cork City.
When William signed on to the Titanic, on 6 April 1912 in Southampton, he gave his local address as 27 Orchard Lane, (Southampton). His previous ship had been the Oceanic and as an able seaman he would expect to earn monthly wages of £5.
During the sinking, Lyons was one of several crewmen who jumped overboard and swam towards nearby lifeboat 4 which was launched late in the proceedings. Hauled into the boat by other occupants, he later lost consciousness. Brought on board the rescue ship Carpathia, and still alive at that point but unconscious, William was pronounced dead several hours later and buried at sea on 16 April 1912.
His father Henry died little more than a year later on 14 May 1913. He is buried at St Joseph's Cemetery, Cork and there is also an inscription to William Henry on the headstone.