William McQuillan was born at 73 Cosgrave Street in Belfast, Ireland (modern-day Northern Ireland) on 6 January 1886.
He was the son of William Robert McQuillan (b. circa 1855), a fireman, and Annie Fergie (b. circa 1858) who had married in St Stephen's Church, Belfast on 5 October 1882, both residents of 96 Cosgrave Street in that city at the time.
He had three known siblings: Robert Andrew (b. circa 1884), Annie Edith (b. 26 February 1890) and Margaret (b. 30 June 1892) and he grew up in a Presbyterian household.
His mother later suffered from a paralysing illness and died on 28 March 1900 aged 42; the family address at the time was 23 Upper Canning Street(1), Belfast.
William appears on the 1901 census of Ireland living at 50 Meadow Street in the Dock Ward of Belfast City. At the time he was aged 15 and had already left school, working as a fitter's apprentice and his brother as a shipwright. His brother was to die tragically the following year on 5 December 1902 when his head was crushed in an accident at the shipyards where he worked (Workman, Clark and Co); he was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital close to Belfast's city centre but died due to his horrific injuries the same day.
On 15 April 1904 William's father remarried to a woman named Annie McIlroy (b. circa 1879) who was 24 years his junior. Together they had a total of five known children: Eileen (b. 17 March 1905), Ian (b. 9 April 1906), Lucinda (b. 10 February 1909), Prudence (b. 10 April 1910) and Elizabeth (b. 4 December 1912) and they lived at 41 Seaview Street, later 35 Seaview Street, Belfast.
William himself was married on 11 September 1906 to Margaret Dennison (b. 1 February 1881) a former linen spinner who was born in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, the illegitimate daughter of Ellen Dennison; their respective addresses were listed as 15 Meadow Street and 15 Jennymount Street, both in Belfast, and McQuillan was described as a fitter.
The McQuillans welcomed a child prior to their marriage, daughter Marion (aka Mary Ann or Miriam) who arrived on 18 April 1905, born at 15 Jennymount Street but who would die from convulsions aged five years on 2 July 1910, later being buried in Dundonald Cemetery on the outskirts of east Belfast in a Fergie family plot.
By the time of the 1911 census William and his wife were living at 79 Seaview Street, Duncairn, Belfast with their daughter Annie (b. 15 May 1909) and William was, at the time, described as a seaman and his wife a linen spinner. The couple would welcome another child named James on 18 April 1911.
William was on board the Titanic as a fireman for her delivery trip to Southampton and when he signed on again in Southampton for the maiden voyage on 6 April 1912 he gave his address as 79 Seaview Street, Belfast. His previous ship had been the St Dunstan and as a fireman he received monthly wages of £6.
William McQuillan was lost in the sinking. His body was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett, and was buried at Fairview Cemetary, Halifax, Nova Scotia on 6 May 1912. The description of his body perhaps suggests that he suffered from alopecia.
NO. 183 - MALE - HARDLY ANY HAIR ON HEAD OR FACE
CLOTHING - Blue coat and vest; dungaree pants; striped shirt.
EFFECTS - Shaving brush; soap; papers.
NATIONAL FIREMAN UNION BOOK No. 932.
NAME - W. McQuillan,
His widow and children would benefit from the Titanic Relief Fund as Class G dependents. William became a posthumous father when widow Margaret gave birth to a daughter named Gertrude Willelmina on 20 November 1912.
Margaret McQuillan outlived her husband by only a few years and died due to complications from another pregnancy in a Belfast sanatorium on 3 April 1919 aged 38; her address at the time was again recorded as 79 Seaview Street; she was buried two days later in Belfast's City Cemetery. What eventually became of the McQuillan children Annie, James and Gertrude remains uncertain.
William is commemorated on the Titanic Memorial located in the grounds of Belfast City Hall.