Murdoch of the 'Titanic' :
Lieutenant William McMaster Murdoch
'RMS Titanic', White Star Line
From the webmaster...
Thank you for visiting this website. I hope it has given you a more accurate idea of the life and character of William McMaster Murdoch. I will continue to update and maintain the site as a permanent record. Information and images are still needed, and I will acknowledge anything sent to me.
I decided to add further material to the front of this page, a bit like an office letters file, so that the reader will be able to travel back in history. I apologise in advance for an appalling sense of humour, and thank everybody for their support, - and the occasional criticism.
Channel Five (UK) are screening three dubious offerings on the 'Titanic'. Alas, Dalbeattie can't receive it. Bad news is that it includes a George C. Scott film with a Murdoch suicide in it. This is bound to raise hackles. My correspondent Jenni Atkinson has very kindly agreed to report on these offerings, and I will publish her remarks when received. Another correspondent has told me that 55% of the survivors rescued from 'Titanic' were aboard lifeboats that Murdoch and Moody loaded. This rather goes to prove the sense of both men.
Reliable sources have assured me that the modified version of Cameron's 'Titanic', with a long-winded additional section, will be issued by Twentieth Century Fox by Christmas 1998. In view of the release on video scheduled for September 1998, I feel that the correction is somewhat belated. I would be grateful if any of my readers with access to Fox will please inform me of the text of any actual apology or references to William McMaster Murdoch in this 'Director's Cut'. Possibly sources close to Scott Neeson would oblige.
What is needed is an admission that William McMaster Murdoch was in fact a brave and an honorable man, who lost his life whilst saving others. There should also be an apology to the relatives of William and to the town of Dalbeattie. This will complete the task begun by Scott Neeson. If, on the other hand, the 'director's cut' is nothing more than an attempt to justify a slur on an honest man, then the film will not escape continued censure.
A correspondent wrote the following :-
Dear Mr. Edkins:
I was wondering if you were aware that the CBS network broadcast a Titanic mini-series here in 1996. During my Internet travels, I came across an interesting letter written by members of the Discussion Group of the Titanic Internet Historical Association in November of 1996, which I am forwarding to you here. You will be gratified to see that others came to the defense of William Murdoch following the original airing. I am most curious to know if you are familiar with this film version. By the way, CBS plans to rebroadcast the mini-series this month during May sweeps on the 24th and 26th.
On November 20, 1996, the Members of the Discussion Group of the Titanic Internet Historical Association wrote an open letter to CBS over the Titanic mini-series they aired in early November of that year (now available in video stores). A copy of that open letter, which CBS never answered, appears below. It appears in it's original form and has not been edited:
As you may imagine, prior to its broadcast, your "November sweeps" miniseries, "Titanic," was eagerly anticipated and discussed among the members of our online community. We had hope for an honest, straight-forward recreation of the disaster. While we recognized the need for fictional characters to create subplots, we were brightened by the fact Ken Marschall and the Ulster Titanic Historical Society were both listed, in publicity releases, as being advisors. Surely, we felt, if nothing else this production would be historically accurate.
Then, Part One aired on Sunday, November 17th.[1996 - R.E.]
"Disappointment" does not begin to cover our collective feelings, as displayed in the numerous messages sent to our members immediately following the telecast.
"Disappointment" can only cover the areas which where historically inaccurate - the iceberg messages from other ships being received days before they were actually sent; the actions, as depicted, of real person (most notably Captain Smith and First Officer Murdoch) being so far removed from their actual actions.
For dramatic purposes, one can understand the need to have a "villain" of the piece, but to distort the character of First Officer Murdoch so willingly, it seems almost libelous of the man and his character. Your production's portrayal of Murdoch, someone who had served the White Star Line superbly for years, as an ineffectual seaman is obscene.
Quickly, though, the consensus changed from disappointing to disgust.
You created for yourselves the remarkable opportunity of depicting just how life was, not just onboard the Titanic, but in 1912 as a rule. At that time, there were distinct rules of conduct which persons followed especially those persons in First Class. Instead, you decided to throw in gratuitous scenes of sexual encounters among passengers and give the implication that those who adhered to society's "rules" in 1912 were worthy of disdain by others - witness the reaction of the "mourning" character to the character portrayed by Eva Marie Sainte. In 1912, traditionally, mourning clothes were worn for a year; to not do so would have shocked the traditionalists. Ironically, it was the Titanic disaster, in which so many young women were suddenly widowed and/or parentless which changed that tradition.
But the truly disgusting aspect of the production was the totally unnecessary rape scene. This was a vile inclusion, and should have been left on the cutting room floor, this gratuitous scene will lead to questions from persons less familiar with the Titanic asking if this actually occurred.
As per all accounts, the iceberg which sank the Titanic merely "brushed" against the side. Yet your depiction shows a tremendous, violent impact, again creating a jarring discrepancy with actual history. Part Two was only nominally better, but again showed your producers more interested in the lurid storylines they, themselves, created than in displaying any actual facts.
Why was there no disclaimer on either of the two nights warning parents of violent and/or sexual contents? Why was there no disclaimer to the effect yours was a work of fiction, and should not be taken as historically accurate?
Hopefully, the upcoming Titanic feature film from James Cameron will treat the subject matter with the respect she deserves, as your production failed in this, miserably.
Discussion Group of the Titanic Internet Historical Association
Not much new to report, except that the site passed the 3,000 hits level yesterday, and the Alta Vista search engine appears to have been indexing the site. I have added a little more to the 'Credit where 'tis due' below, after sorting out a bit more of the timeline.
Christine of LoweCoffee found me this remarkable item. It plugs some holes, but means some re-writing of things. Wilde's wife being dead, I think that I misrepresented Ada's aversion to the 'Titanic'; my apologies to all inadvertently offended. Keep the information coming.
I apologise for the delay, but I've had a lot on. The response to the Fox payment has been very partial, both in terms of coverage and editorial influences. I wondered whether to amend the entries for the 18th and 15th, but they do reflect my feelings at the time. For a time, I definitely lost my 'cool', and would have put up some very angry remarks. I decided that the best policy was to look at the situation in terms of gains and losses :-
(But Judi Dench and Sean Connery earned good BAFTAs.)
Ernie is a very shy and private individual, but a brilliant researcher, and I thank him for being the source of the key evidence and background information used to build this site. His knowledge of maritime history has been used by many others, and I feel it should be recognised here. The gap in William's life in the 1890s was filled in (or, at least, guessed at) as a result of his researches. I regret that the media have not recognised the importance of Ernie to the success so far achieved. Jenni Atkinson, a similarly self-deprecating personality, has since spent a morning with him and discovered for herself that he was a mine of knowledge. Ernie has spoken with Bride, Lightoller, Boxhall, Bertram Hayes and Ken Topping, - all key figures in the search for the truth.
As always, in any successful project, credit is often quickly claimed, and not always accurately. The defence of William McMaster Murdoch began with the publication on 22nd January 1998 of the 'Galloway News' front page article, with its pictures of Samuel Scott Murdoch and Ernie Robinson. I came into it the next day, starting the website. On 29th January I went to see Linda Kirkwood at Dalbeattie High School, intending to get from her a list of former Prize winners. I discovered that she had no history of Murdoch, and knew little other than the Town Hall memorial and the £ 4 Prize. I composed the six-page history of William Murdoch on the 2nd February, finishing it (albeit before some polishing) on 9th February. It was in Linda Kirkwood's hands from after that date.
I and Linda Kirkwood had the idea of enlarging the Prize Fund at the same time, but I think I contacted her before she could contact me. As Linda Kirkwood then said that school duties did not give her the time to do it, I tracked down the Stewartry Education Trust administrators Colin Brown and Alec Haswell, who spent ten days informing the SET Governors and gaining their approval for re-opening the Murdoch Memorial Prize fund. I feel that the Trust and its predecessors have done an excellent (and unacknowledged) job over the last 86 years. The money given to the fund must generate a constant annual reminder, and should remain under the Trust's benevolent control.
Jenni Atkinson, a scholar of Murdoch who told me she was 'a housewife in Surrey', phoned the School on the 10th February, and was given my number by Linda Kirkwood. Jenni had written to 'The Times' which published her letter, and, - briefly, - appeared to be in support. Jenni and Linda Kirkwood then called Dorothy-Grace Elder, who swung into action and mobilised her editor in the 'Scotsman on Sunday' in support of Murdoch.
Dorothy-Grace Elder who tracked down Don Lynch, hammered away at Twentieth Century Fox, and involved Alisdair Morgan, MP, with the outcome of Scott Neeson's visit. I must concede that Dorothy was correct in her cynical appraisal of the day's events, in that she though Neeson got off far too lightly. Now she has involved herself in her next project, and I am sure that she will succeed in that.
S'truth, guv. I have carried out my research, phonecalls, site coding and all, without charging anybody anything. There have been a few indirect enquiries as to whether I have made any money out of it, or been given any expenses, and the answer is that I have never had any gifts, pay, expenses, fee or other remuneration. I have banked a couple of single-figure donations to the Trust account for other people. Donations for the Murdoch Memorial Prize fund must be sent direct to the Trust, not to Scott, me, the School, or anybody else.
What I have had from this crusade has been ethical satisfaction, delight in visitors' unfailing support, and the regular rotations of the hit-counter on my website. Only (help !), a planned five-page website is now 26 text files long, - and it still isn't finished... Yet again, I say that all new information will be gratefully received.
Yes, I will consider doing this, as I have my living to earn, and the text's all my work. Any publishers out there ? (But I'll finish the site, first !)
It is fairly plain that 20th Century Fox are trying to pass off the half apology as a complete one, and this is not good news. The Galloway News is less convinced than the Dumfries and Galloway Standard and Advertiser, which took virtually no notice of events up to the 15th April. Both Suzanne Störmer and Scott are being quoted by the Standard in ways that actually reverse their viewpoints. For example, Suzanne said that she regarded the film as 'a joke', and meant 'a sick joke', but the Standard regards it as 'an amusing joke', which I confess I find rather sickening. It is doubly so, in view of the fact that Suzanne is German, and they are abusing her choice of English. Suzanne Störmer is a remarkably sincere and warm-hearted individual, who was shocked by the cynical portrayal of Murdoch used by Cameron. Unfortunately, there is a similar attitude in other press reports; the exceptions, no doubt, will be 'Scotland on Sunday' and our other regular supporters.
There will be a lot to look at, before I can assess exactly what has been said, but reports coming in from various international press agencies, - as read by my correspondents, - read as if we had scored a complete victory. In fact, the victory is only one battle, and the war is not won. Linda Kirkwood was correct to remark that the 'apology' was liable to be forgotten within three or four years, for the film would go on being shown unchanged. Others at the event were rather more forthright about it; whilst we who were there know what was said, some of the media have chosen to present the 'apology' as more than it is.
Pressure must continue to be applied for an apology to be included in the video version. One of my correspondents suggested sending letters to 20th Century Fox, and for that reason I will repeat the remarks and the addresses that she so kindly supplied:-
Cameron and Twentieth Century Fox will only gain beneficial publicity, if they incorporate an honest and honorable apology within the first part of the film and video credits. I would be delighted to have the observations of correspondents and Scott Neeson on an appropriate and permanent choice of words. I will continue to develop the site in defence of the honest fame of Lieutenant William McMaster Murdoch, Royal Naval Reserve, and his home town of Dalbeattie.
This worthy organisation is holding its conference in Southampton this weekend, and Suzanne Störmer will be there with the remaining hundred copies of her book. So, too, will my friend Jenni Atkinson. Steve Rigby and Jeff Whitfield of the Society have approved my request to join the Society, so I hope to attend the 1999 Conference. Apparently, those interested in joining the Society can contact Jeff Whitfield at :-
I wish the Society well, and hope that the Conference is successful. If anybody visiting this site is attending the conference, perhaps they will relay my respects.
|From the left
Linda Kirkwood, Richard Edkins, Samuel Scott Murdoch, Jenni Atkinson, Dorothy Grace Elder, with Susanne Störmer in front of us.
I attended part of the handover-discussion at the SNP offices in the High Street, the photocall beside the Memorial at the Town Hall, and the later relaxation at the SNP offices. Other business calling, I bought my own copy of 'Good Bye, Good Luck' from Suzanne Störmer, and dealt with my business in Dalbeattie. Those present included all those who had been at the 'Mariner' on the previous evening, and that distinguished journalist Dorothy-Grace Elder.
The press were chiefly interested in the school children, Scott Murdoch and Mrs. Kirkwood. A silver tray was presented to the school by Scott Neeson as a peace-offering. I was not in many photos, but my ugly mug may be in the group photo of the 'Friends'. When the film is developed, I will scan in a few of my own snapshots onto this site.
I did have the opportunity to say a few words to Scott Neeson and his British-based colleague Mr. Dignan. Mr. Neeson did publicly say of William Murdoch that :-
He also approved of the following entry on this site :-
In all honesty, I have to say that Mr. Neeson and his colleague were very polite, and apparently are well aware of this site. However, the film company have yet to say that they (or, rather, Cameron) were wrong to portray William McMaster Murdoch in the way that they did. The video is going to be released this September, but without any kind of apology to the relatives of William Murdoch in its credits. I can only say that I find this to be a very poor-spirited action, as an amendment to the credits would probably be less expensive than a 'Director's Cut'.
I look forward to reading the press coverage and to the e-mail comments of visitors to this site.
I confess that I cannot help but recall the events that were going on at this time, aboard RMS 'Titanic' in 1912. It would be 7:21 Greenwich Mean Time. Look at the Collision and Aftermath section for yourselves. Philip Hind raises a glass at 10:40 p.m., each year, and I'll suggest that you do the same. In my case, it'll probably be a mug of Earl Grey tea or Horlicks. But I may listen to the .MID sound file on Hind's site.
As for events tomorrow, - we're being kept guessing, here in Dalbeattie. Alistair Morgan, MP, has been given my request about a simple apology, and may put it to Neeson tomorrow. Nobody will let on where the presentation of the cheque will be; the School, the SNP Constituency Offices or the Town Hall, are all being touted as venues. A very strange attitude, bearing in mind the importance 20th Century Fox attaches to its letter. I'll keep you all informed as to the outcome.
Most of us Friends of Murdoch are in town. I'm at my house, Suzanne Störmer is on her way, Jenni Atkinson is in Kippford, visiting Scott. I expect to see both of them tomorrow.
Jenni Atkinson and a journalist are collaborating on a programme to be shown in June on UK Television Channel 4. They're involving me, in return for support for Murdoch's cause.
I had to visit the 'Mariner' in Kippford to see Jenni Atkinson, and there was surprised to meet...well, everybody. My first meeting with Siv Murdoch, Scott's wife, with Suzanne Störmer, and Jenni Atkinson's husband. Scott was there (naturally), and a good discussion was had by all. The head teacher Linda Kirkwood also arrived, and there was to be a meeting at Alisdair Morgan's office at 10:00 a.m. next morning. Fertile discussion of Was William a Bad Boy, And If So, When ? Outcome was a qualified 'he might have been when a bachelor'. Suzanne Störmer thought well of my theory that William identified his sister Peg as his ideal of his future wife, and Ada was certainly similar to Peg. Ada was also a very lively individual, and would have left him little time or inclination to look elsewhere.
Suzanne Störmer said that the 'Weeping Woman' was a society lady of New York; she and Jenni Atkinson regarded the 'Weeping Woman' as being a keen fan of Murdoch in his own lifetime, but probably no more than that. We then discussed the almost 'pop star' status of the White Star Line officers, who apparently DID misbehave aboard, on occasion, or were able to attend social engagements in New York. Suzanne Störmer did tell me that there was a stoker with the name 'William Murdoch' aboard 'Titanic', but plainly that would not fit in with the 'Aunt Emmie' story. Altogether, a very interesting and unexpected evening.
This website is being written to set the record straight. Information and editorial assistance is being given by Mr. Samuel Scott Murdoch, the nephew of the First Officer of the RMS 'Titanic', and the maritime historian, Mr. Ernest Robinson.
Enquiries about William McMaster Murdoch for Mr. Scott Murdoch or Mr. Ernest Robinson can be forwarded by e-mail through :-
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