William Deakin Rylands was born in Runcorn, Cheshire, England, in 1884 or 1885, the son of William and Sarah Rylands. He was married to Francesca “Frances” May Rylands, (née Buckley) and they lived at 52, Wright Street, Egremont, Wallasey, Cheshire, with their son William Edward, who was born on 15th August 1912. William Rylands senior was an active Freemason, being a member of Liverpool Toxteth Lodge No. 1356.
Prior to serving on the Lusitania, William Rylands was employed by The Caledonian Insurance Company of New York, in the United States of America.
However, on 12th April 1915, he engaged at Liverpool as a first class waiter in the Stewards' Department, on board the
Lusitania, at a monthly rate of pay of £4-5s-0d., (£4.25p.) and reported for duty on board the vessel at 7 a.m. on 17th April, before she left the River Mersey for the last ever time. It was not his first voyage on the liner.
He was killed, three weeks later, after the Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk off the coast of Ireland by the German submarine U-20, on her return voyage from New York, only hours away from her Liverpool destination. His body was never found and identified afterwards and as a result, he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine War Memorial at Tower Hill, London. He was aged 30 years.
He is also commemorated on a bronze roll of honour dedicated to all the Freemasons from Merseyside who were killed in the Great War, at the Masonic Hall in Hope Street, Liverpool.
Frances May Rylands was sent the balance of pay owing to her late husband in August 1915, and this was calculated on his sea service from 17th April 1915, until 8th May - 24 hours after the liner had foundered. The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited also granted her an annual pension which amounted to £44-19s-8d. (£44.98p.), payable at the rate of £3-15s-0d. (£3.75p.) per month.
Frances re-married within a year of her husband's death and as a consequence, their son William never knew his father's family. By the time that the Tower Hill Memorial register was compiled, in the early 1920s, she was living at 5, Vivian Avenue, Seacombe, Wallasey, Cheshire.
In a letter to the author written in 1996, William Rylands stated that his father was a ship's writer, but this is possibly a misinterpretation of
waiter, perhaps made at the time of his death.
Register of Birth, Marriages and Deaths, 1901 Census of England and Wales, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, William Rylands, Patricia Whitney, UniLiv. PR. 13/24, PRO BT 334.