Encyclopedia Titanica

William John Boston

Mr William John Boston was born in Huyton, Lancashire, England in the latter half of 1879; he was baptised on 18 August that year in Halton, Cheshire.
He was the son of William Boston (b. 1846) and Martha Dale (b. 1843) who had been married in 1877. His father hailed from Birkenhead and his mother from Onston, Cheshire. He had one sibling, Mary (b. 1884).

William first appears on the 1881 census and at the time he and his parents were residing at 1 Poplar Terrace on Tarbock Road, Huyton; his father was described as a cow keeper (dairyman). They had moved to 8 Jubilee (?) Avenue by the time of the 1891 census and his father was then described as a coal merchant. William is not at home at the time of the 1901 census, already working at sea by that point, but his family were shown living at 128 Thomas Lane, West Derby, his father then described as a green grocer. William would give this address on many of his early sea voyages. 

Boston first appears on crew lists in September 1899 when he was listed as a steward aboard Majestic; he failed to join on that occasion. By the following year he was a waiter aboard Lucania on which he continue to work for at least the next twelve months. June 1902 saw him working as assistant steward aboard the Hanoverian and by May 1907 he was a waiter aboard Carmania. 

William, who was afflicted with severe asthma, was married in Southampton in mid-1908 to Ellen Elizabeth Beattie (b. 3 October 1886 in Liverpool), daughter of joiner James Beattie and his wife Elizabeth, née Ashley. The 1911 census shows the couple living as lodgers at Kedleston on Lumsden Avenue in Southampton and with William being described as a seafarer in the merchant service. They would have a son, William Ashley who arrived on 1 August 1911.

William was on board the Titanic for her delivery trip from Belfast to Southampton. When he signed-on again for the maiden voyage on 4 April 1912, he gave his address as 1 Hanley Road, Freemantle, Southampton. His previous ship had been the Olympic and as an assistant deck steward he received monthly wages of £3, 15s.

William Boston died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified. His probate at the time of his death left his wife £165. He was remembered on a grave in St Anne's Roman Catholic Cemetery, Scotland Road, Liverpool, but the site has since been redeveloped.

William's widow Ellen later resettled in Liverpool and went on to spend many years of her life with another mariner, Irish-born chief steward Samuel Cameron Nelson (1891-1946), although the couple were never married. The two were living together in Liverpool by the time of the 1939 register but Nelson passed away in Denbighshire, Wales in 1946. Ellen spent the rest of her days in Liverpool and died there in early 1973. 

Her son William Ashley, like his father, was an asthmatic and later attended the Quaker College in Liverpool, his education paid by the Titanic Relief Fund. He earned a degree in Industrial Chemistry. He later worked as an actor and entertainer and during WWII served with the RAF, married and raised a family. It is reported that he had a fascination with Titanic and collected various books and memorabilia. He died in Valencia, New Mexico on 4 February 2007.

References and Sources

England Wales Probate Calendar (1858-1966)
Titanic's Memorials, World-Wide, Where they are located: Ticehurst, Brian J. (1996)
Chieftan.com, April 14, 2012
Agreement and Account of Crew (PRO London, BT100/259)
Particulars of Engagement (Belfast), Ulster Folk and Transport Museum (TRANS 2A/45 381)
Search archive online

Comment and discuss

  1. Pboston

    William John Boston was my paternal grandfather.  His only child, William Ashley Boston, was my father and only 8 months old at the time of his father's death aboard Titanic. The family information is that William went to sea after trying his hand in several of a number of the family-owned businesses, including a bakery, a burlap sack factory, and the family's horse-breeding stables because of his severe asthma.  In those days, the causes of asthma were unknown but it was reputed that going to sea alleviated the condition. WIlliam's father and grandfather also suffered the condition, as... Read full post

  2. David Briscoe

    Hello, my Name is Gaynor Briscoe nee Beattie. My paternal grandfather was James Ashley Beattie who was brother to, as we knew her as Aunty Nell, who was wife of William John Boston. She always talked of her son who went to America to find fame in the movie industry. I remember her living at my fathers family home 68 Thomas Lane. Knotty Ash. Liverpool 14. She used to tell us about her son going to America, changing his name to Rex Ramer and acting in films.

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Titanic Crew Summary

Name: Mr William John Boston
Age: 32 years (Male)
Nationality: English
Marital Status: Married to Ellen Elizabeth Beattie
Last Residence: at 1 Hanley Road Southampton, Hampshire, England
Last Ship: Olympic
Embarked: Belfast on Monday 1st April 1912
Died in the Titanic disaster (15th April 1912)
Body Not Recovered

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