William Rankin Le Neve Yetts was born in Dundee, Angus, Scotland, on the 15th April 1867, the son of William Rankin and Matilda Paris (née Peter). He had a very unsettled childhood, with the family moving back and forth between Northumberland, England, Scotland, and County Antrim, Northern Ireland, frequently before most of the family immigrated to Canada in 1885, but by then William appears to have made his own way in life.
On the 6th October 1895, he married Mary Burns in Cardiff, Glamorganshire, Wales, but nothing further is known of this marriage.
By 1915, he is believed to have been married to Isabella Yetts, (née Watts) and they lived at 510, Park Avenue, New York City, New York, U.S.A. It is probable that he met his wife as a result of his trans-Atlantic crossings with the Mercantile Marine. Whilst in Liverpool, however, his address was 2, Brown Street.
He engaged as an able seaman in the Deck Department on board the Lusitania at Liverpool on 12th April 1915 and reported for duty on board on the morning of 17th April 1915, before the liner slipped out of the River Mersey for the last time. His actual job on board was that of a store-keeper and his monthly rate of pay was £5-10s-0d., (£5.50p.).
He was killed when the liner was sunk, and as his body was never recovered and identified afterwards, he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, London. He was aged 48 years.
In August 1915, his widow was paid the balance of wages owing to him in respect of his sea service from 17th April until 8th May 1915, 24 hours after the liner had foundered.
Because Able Seaman Yetts was domiciled in The United States of America, Isabella Yetts was also eligible to claim financial help from The Mayor of New York’s Fund for the Relief of Lusitania Sufferers, so long as she was not also compensated under the British Compensation Act.
By the summer of 1915, she was in a poor state of health, and although working as a domestic servant, she suffered from poor eyesight and had bad varicose veins. As a result, the committee administering the New York fund set aside a sum of $500.00 to be held for her until it was ascertained whether or not she was eligible for British compensation.
Under the provisions of Britain’s Workmen’s Compensation Act and War Risks Insurance Association Scheme, however, Able Seaman Yetts’ widow
was eligible for compensation and she eventually received a lump sum of £242-4-s-9d., (£242.24p.), and an annual pension of £26-0s-0d. (£26.00p.), payable at the rate of £6-10s.-0d. (£6.50p.) per quarter The lump sum would have represented 44 years’ wages for an able seaman at that time.
Scotland, Select Births and Baptisms, 1564 – 1950, 1905 New York State Census, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, Liverpool Record Office, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv. PR 13/24, PRO BT 334.