People on board
William Mathias was born on 31st October 1866 in Holyhead to John Mathias and Jane Rowlands. They were married in 1854 in Cardiganshire and the first recorded child was Margaret in 1863, but there may have been others born before this date. William was the third of the seven recorded children. John Mathias was a Mariner working for the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company, eventually as Chief Officer, according to his gravestone. His eldest son Hugh started with the same company at the age of fourteen. William did his apprenticeship with the CDSPCo and then moved to Lairds Shipbuilders in Birkenhead. He returned to Holyhead in 1890 as Ship’s Engineer in the CDSPCo, working his way up to First Engineer when he served on RMS Connaught. He was probably on board when that ship was torpedoed and sunk in 1917. He was working as Acting Chief Engineer on board RMS Leinster in 1918.
When John Mathias died in 1890 the family was living in Water Street in Holyhead in the harbour area, and when William married Elizabeth Ann Lewis in 1899 they lived only a short distance away in Newry Street, where her family were living.
Two of Elizabeth’s brothers, William John and Lewis Lewis, were also serving on RMS Leinster on 10th October 1918. William and Elizabeth, who called herself Elyn in the 1911 census, had one child, Hector, born in 1900. William’s older brother Hugh, then a Captain, died in Hong Kong in 1915 and is buried there.
It is reported that when the torpedo hit the ship Mathias went down to the engine room to shut off the engines, thus allowing lifeboats to be launched, this despite the fact that the ship was flooding. His bravery cost him his life, and his body was not found. His name is inscribed on the family grave in Maeshyfryd Cemetery in Holyhead with his parents, his brother Hugh and a sister who died young. His name is also on the Tower Hill Memorial in London.