Mr William Henry Gillespie

Mr William Henry Gillespie was born at Burrin Street in the town of Carlow in Co Carlow, Ireland on 7 October 1880.

He was the son of Richard Gillespie (b. 1838), a staff sergeant in the British Army and later a clerk, and Eliza Houlihan (b. 1860). His father was originally from Co Cork and his mother from Co Limerick and they had married in Dublin on 1 August 1870.

From a Church of Ireland family, the Gillespie's first child, a son also named William Henry, was born in the capital on 25 May 1871 but later died whilst still a small infant. He was followed by twins Eliza Annie and Caroline Bridget (b. 6 November 1874) who were born in Parsonstown (modern-day Birr) in Kings County (modern-day Co Offaly). Whilst residents of the Military Barracks in Carlow, when her father was the barracks sergeant, daughter Catherine Jane was born 10 December 1876. The family moved to Burrin Street in Carlow later; his brother Richard George was born there on 3 October 1878 and William followed in 1880. 

The family were back in the military barracks in Carlow when his brother Daniel James arrived on 19 June 1882 and brother Emmanuel on 25 December 1883. After this the family moved to Abbeyleix Demesne in Abbeyleix, Queen's County (modern-day Co Laois) and whilst there daughter Ester Deborah was born on 7 June 1886 and was followed by Ada Ruth (b. 26 May 1888), Uriah Adam (b.21 January 1890) and Matthew Humphrey (b. 23 October 1893).

When he appears on the 1901 census William is described as a grocer's clerk and still living with his family at house 9 in Abbeyleix Demesne. His father, by then an estate clerk, later died on Christmas Day 1908. William and his family were listed on the 1911 census still living in Abbeyleix, then 20 Market Square, and he was described as an unmarried law clerk. His mother ran a coffee house named Coffee Palace.

Working as a clerk in a prestigious carpet factory in Abbeyleix, William was travelling to Vancouver on business. He boarded the Titanic at Queenstown on 11 April 1912 as a second class passenger (ticket number 12233 which cost £13), one of only a handful of Irish passengers not travelling third class. His brothers Emmanuel and Uriah had also previously crossed the Atlantic, with Emmanuel known to have returned to Ireland by 1910. Another brother, Daniel lived in Manhattan but the family had not had contact with him since around 1906.

William Gillespie was lost in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified. He is remembered on the family headstone in St. Micheal and all Angels churchyard, Tullyrae, Abbeyleix, Co. Laois, Ireland

William Henry Gillespie Memorial William Henry Gillespie Memorial 
(Courtesy of Trevor Baxter)

His mother later received compensation from the Titanic Relief Fund. She died on 10 January 1914. 

His brother Emmanuel, a chemist's assistant, later signed up for the war effort in the run-u to the outbreak of WWI, joining the Royal Army Medical Corps. What became of him is not certain.

In a strange twist, in 1926 his brother Daniel living in New York sent letters via the Irish Department of External Affairs to try and contact William. He stated that he had not had contact with him in twenty years and believed he was working as a grocer in Dublin. With enquiries made and the local Gardai (the Irish police force) informed of the search, Daniel eventually learned of his brother's fate. Daniel, who worked as a painter and lived in Brooklyn, was never married. He died on 15 August 1929 aged 47.



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Articles and Stories

Chicago Inter Ocean (1912) 

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Peter Engberg, Sweden

References and Sources

Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279]).
Marriages, births, deaths and injuries that have occurred on board during the voyage (PRO London, BT 100/259-260)
Ireland Births and Baptisms, 1620-1881 (
Search archive Irish newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

(2020) William Henry Gillespie Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #428, updated 13th January 2020 04:49:06 AM)