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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 October 2005, 06:04 GMT 07:04 UK
Family uncovers a Titanic story
The film showed William McQuillan's grave in Canada
The film showed William McQuillan's grave in Canada
The final resting place of a Titanic crewman has been discovered by his family 93 years after the sinking of the ill-fated liner.

Ship's stoker William McQuillan was believed to have been lost at sea when the Titanic sank on 15 April 1912.

But a film about BBC Northern Ireland's Mike McKimm's dive to the ship led his family to locate his grave.

Mr McQuillan did drown in the disaster, but his body was found and brought ashore at Halifax in Nova Scotia.

Ninety-three years ago, back in the ship's home city of Belfast, his grieving family could only believe what they saw in the papers.

The Belfast Telegraph of 4 May 1912 revealed Mr McQuillan was not one of the survivors and that the bodies of the missing Belfast firemen who stoked the Titanic's engines "lay in a sailor's grave, two miles beneath the ocean".

The next morning, I went down to mum and she was amazed too because all she and the relatives knew was he had been lost at sea
Marjorie Wilson

In a cruel twist of fate, just two days later, William McQuillan's body was buried in grave 183 in Fairview Cemetery, Halifax, Canada.

Until last week, his family assumed he was just one of about 1,000 people lost at sea in the disaster.

Marjorie Wilson is William McQuillan's granddaughter. Her husband Victor was watching BBC Newsline's Journey to Remember documentary about the dive to Titanic in August.

It showed William McQuillan's grave in Canada. Marjorie Wilson was shocked when her husband told her what he had just seen.

"He mentioned William McQuillan, Seaview Street. I said: 'That's my grandda'.

"He said they had found his grave. I never knew about it. The next morning, I went down to mum and she was amazed too because all she and the relatives knew was he had been lost at sea.

A photograph of William McQuillan is in the family's possession
A photograph of William McQuillan is in the family's possession

"So it was great, in a way, to find out."

William's children all went to their graves assuming that he was one of the missing.

As Marjorie sat staring at the photograph of his gravestone, she related how she first discovered her grandfather died in the tragedy.

"I was 12-years-old and a friend and I were up in the town (Belfast) and there was a drinking fountain at the City Hall.

"As I was taking a drink my friend said: 'Look, there's a name the same as yours'.

"I went home and said to mum: 'On a statue it has McQuillan on it', and mum said: 'That's your grandfather. He went down in the Titanic'."

Marjorie said her grandfather should not have been on the Titanic.

But a friend due to sail on the ship wanted to remain on shore to take care of his wife who was expecting their first child, so William volunteered to take his place - a generous gesture that cost him his life.

His house at 79 Seaview Street in north Belfast has long since gone.

A solitary photograph of William McQuillan is still in the family's possession. Until last week it was all they had to remember their sad connection with Titanic.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Watch pictures of the Titanic's resting place



SEE ALSO:
A Titanic dive to remember
17 Oct 05 |  Northern Ireland
Titanic tourist project unveiled
11 Aug 05 |  Northern Ireland
Titanic task for matchstick man
28 Apr 05 |  South West Wales
Titanic menu among auction relics
14 Apr 05 |  Northern Ireland


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