As managing director of the Harland and Wolff shipyard, William Pirrie hosted dinner at his Belgrave Square home in London for Joseph Bruce Ismay, Chairman of the White Star Line, and his wife Florence in 1907. There they formulated plans for a new class of transatlantic liner for the Liverpool-based shipping line, vessels that would later become the Olympic and Titanic.
On his death in 1924 William Pirrie was buried in Belfast's City Cemetery and the memorial was erected by his wife in his honour. On her death in 1935 Margaret was interred with her husband. The memorial is in the form of a bronze plinth, surmounted by a bust of William Pirrie.
The memorial reportedly suffered damage and was removed to safe storage before undergoing restoration in 2005. The memorial was re-sited to City Hall, installed atop a Portland stone base. It stands within sight of the Edward Harland and Belfast men (Titanic) memorial. The memorial was official unveiled on 31 May 2006, on the 159th anniversary of William Pirrie's birth.
The memorial stands atop a granite base, and carries on its face a bronze plaque carrying a dedication to William Pirrie and his wife, Margaret (née Carlisle). The plaque has turned corners and is surmounted by a scroll, surrounded at the top and upper sides by acanthus-type leaves, with a further scroll at the base. Above the inscription is a bas-relief of the Pirrie coat of arms with the family motto 'Deeds Not Words'.
The bust of William Pirrie is of his head, neck and upper torso and depicts his appearance in later life. He is wearing a double-breasted jacket, with bow-tie and handkerchief in his breast-pocket.
The memorial plaque carries the inscription:
In Loving and Most Grateful Memory of my Beloved Husband
William James Pirrie
1st Viscount KP. P.C. HML. Born 31st May 1847 - Died 7th June 1924.
Only son of James Alexander Pirrie and Eliza Swan Montgomery Married 17th April 1879 Margaret M. Carlisle Daughter of John Carlisle and Catherine Montgomery
He entered Queens Island as an apprentice 23 June 1862 62 years later on 23rd June 1923 he was laid to rest there. As Chairman of Messrs Harland & Wolff's vast organization for so many years he by his own cheerful service and wide experience proved as inspiration to the many fellow-workers identified with him in the evolution of shipbuilding. It was his joy to recognize their loyalty and allegiance. On all seas the ships that sail testify to the great benefits his genius conferred on mankind. He spent his life endeavouring to be useful in his day and generation and was closely associated always with the progress of and charities in this city.
Here also rests
Margaret M. Carlisle
Wife of William James Viscount Pirrie K.P. Born 31st May 1857 - Died 19th June 1935
She was the devoted companion and helpmate of her husband always interested in and sharing his life work during the 47 years they were together; and promoting with boundless energy and enthusiasm, plans for the welfare of others - a truly lovable women she endeared herself to all who knew her.
Thrice blest and more whom vows unbroken bind, Whose love is ne'er of jarring moods the slave, Ye al nobly blest, to whom tis given to find Devotion steadfast even to the end.
During the restoration in 2005 two additional plaques were affixed either side of the plinth. The first on the left side is the four-masted sailing vessel SS Venetian, built in 1860 for the Bibby Line by Harland and Wolff. The other plaque on the right side is of the RMS Olympic, built in 1911 by Harland and Wolff.
The grave in the City Cemetery is now marked by a granite block with an inscription to the memory of William and Margaret Pirrie.