Born William Alexander Irwin, he used the stage name William Haviland for most of his life. He began his stage career when he joined the company of Sir Henry Irving in 1882, performing minor and major roles in the thirteen years he played and toured with Irving.
He married Amy Coleridge in Chicago on 18 February 1884. They had two children , and were later divorced, possibly 1901.
He and his family left Irving in 1895 to tour South Africa with the Holloway and his Shakespearean company under the auspices of The Wheelers, and in 1897 he and Gerald Lawrence (1873-1957), founded the William Haviland and Gerald Lawrence Shakespearean Company to tour in South Africa once again.
On his return to England he joined the company of Johnston Forbes-Robertson and then that of Martin Harvey for his sixth tour of America in 1902.
In 1903 he joined Max Beerbohm Tree’s company and remained with him until 1905, returning to South Africa with Tree for his fourth tour. His final performance in Shakespeare came in a Dublin production of Richard II with Tree in 1913.
He apparently listed “rehearsing” among his recreations.
Contribution to South African theatre
In the period 1897-1898: He and Gerald Lawrence brought their Haviland and Lawrence Shakespearian & Dramatic Company to South Africa. He directed and performed in a large number of plays, including The Taming of the Shrew, The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing.
The S.A. Merry-Go-Round, 2(4):28. August 21st, 1929.
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