Mr William Henry Gillespie was born in Co Carlow, Ireland on 7 October 1880.
He was the son of Richard Gillespie (b. 1838), a clerk, and Eliza Houlihan (b. 1860). His father was originally from Co Cork and his mother from Co Limerick. They had married in Dublin in 1870 and their first child, also named William Henry, was born in the capital on 25 May 1871 but later died whilst still a small infant.
Coming from a brood of a dozen, William's other siblings, beside his namesake brother, were: twins Eliza Annie and Caroline Bridget (b. 1874), Catherine Jane 1 (b. 1876), Richard George (b. 1878), Daniel James (1882-1929), Emmanuel (b. 1884), Esther Deborah (b. 1886), Ada Ruth (b. 1888) 2, Uriah Adam (b. 1890) and Matthew Humphrey (1893-1952).
William grew up in a Church of Ireland household. His parents moved from Dublin in the early 1870s, settling in Carlow where he was born before relocating to Abbeyleix in Queen's County (modern day Co Laois) around 1883. 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, Abbeyleix. His father was an estate clerk and also saw military service. He 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.
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 up 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.
William's last known surviving sibling, Matthew, died in Dublin in 1952.