Dalbeattie Town History

Murdoch of the 'Titanic' :

Lieutenant William McMaster Murdoch
Royal Naval Reserve

'RMS Titanic', White Star Line

The Apology To William Murdoch
15th April 1998 - Scott Neeson and the Cheque

Back to Murdoch of the Titanic Homepage

Scott Neeson,
20th Century Fox.

Scott Murdoch,
William's nephew.

Alistair Morgan, MP
Galloway and Upper Nithsdale.

Suzanne Stormer,

Elder journalist.

Jenni Atkinson,
author & scholar.

Linda Kirkwood,
school head.

Richard Edkins,

On the 15th of April 1998, Mr. Scott Neeson, a Vice-President of Twentieth Century Fox, arrived with his colleague Peter Dignan of their London Offices. They met with Samuel Scott Murdoch and others at the Scottish National Party constituency offices of Alistair Morgan, MP. A cheque for the sum of £ 5,000 was handed over as some kind of compensation for the distress felt in Dalbeattie by Cameron's depiction of William McMaster Murdoch. An apology for the distress was made by Scott Neeson on behalf of Twentieth Century Fox. Part of the money was used to fund some new computers and a memorial board at Dalbeattie High School. The remainder is now being administered by Stewartry Educational Trust, funding the two Murdoch Memorial Trust prizes.

This page was finally uplifted in April 1999, as a written and pictorial record of the event. It is a slight re-working of the 'Site News' entries written at the time, modified in the light of comments from my fellow-campaigners. It begins on the evening of 14th April 1998 and ends 25th April 1998. I apologise for the length
- Richard Edkins, webmaster@dalbeattie.com

Pictures of the Event

This is a highly personal collection. All are © copyright Richard Edkins except the campaign group photo, which is courtesy of Jenny Atkinson's husband, the photographer and journalist Mr. John O' Sullivan. To my regret, I did not get the picture of the two Scotts by the Memorial; the commercial photographers were an impassable wall.

Click on thumbnails to view largerimages.

The Murdoch Memorial on the outside of the Town Hall.

Two of the Dalbeattie High School pupils and Scott Neeson by the
Murdoch Memorial. The press arranging a photograph.

A Dalbeattie High School pupil and Scott Neeson share a few words by the
Murdoch Memorial.

Linda Kirkwood and Alistair Morgan. Suzanne Stormer, doing her superman gag,
Jenny Atkinson having a good laugh.

Richard Edkins and Alistair Morgan. Scott Neeson in the background,
with the film replica tray presented to the school. Now you see him...

Richard Edkins and Alistair Morgan. In the background, the tray.
... Now you don't. Scott Neeson has a worthy sense of humour.

The Campaign Team : Linda Kirkwood, Richard Edkins, Scott Murdoch, Jenni Atkinson, Dorothy-Grace Elder and Suzanne Stormer with her Murdoch t-shirt.

Dorothy-Grace Elder, journalist of excellence.

Suzanne Stormer, author of 'Good-bye, Good Luck'.
The flowers on the memorial are from her.

Three Good Men at Alistair Morgan's Offices :
Peter Dignan, Alistair Morgan, and Scott Neeson.

The Diary Sequence, 14th April - 25th April 1998 :

Date : 14th April 1998 : 8:21 p.m. :

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.

14th April, midnight :

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 the photographer John O'Sullivan. Scott Murdoch 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.

Date : 15th April 1998 : 2:00 p.m. :

From the left :
Linda Kirkwood, Richard Edkins, Samuel Scott Murdoch, Jenni Atkinson, Dorothy Grace Elder, with Susanne Störmer in front of us in her Murdoch t-shirt.
Click on picture for larger image

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 will 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 really was a hero in real life.'

He also approved of the following entry on this site :-

'We apologise for any distress caused to his relatives and to the town of Dalbeattie.'

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.

Date : 18th April 1998 : 21:56 p.m. :

Press Reaction, locally...

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.

...And Internationally...

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.

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.

Date : 25th April 1998 :

Digesting the Response... :

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 :-

Gains :

  1. Samuel Scott Murdoch has put the truth about his uncle before the world, and has earned great respect from all who have met him, - Neeson included.
  2. The Murdoch Memorial Prize fund is now £ 5,000 (Pounds Sterling) better off. This will allow a prize of £ 150 to £ 200 to be awarded, and still allow for re-investment against inflation.
  3. Many e-mails of support were received from people who have never been in touch with me before.
  4. The hit-counter is whirring around towards 2,600, having been on 2,103 on the morning of the 15th April.
  5. Despite sweeping up a lot of Oscars, Cameron's 'Titanic' has been most unsuccessful in the BAFTA awards. Moral : Arrogance at Oscar costs you the BAFTA.

(But Judi Dench and Sean Connery earned good BAFTAs.)

Losses :

  1. Scott Neeson gave the town and Scott a 'lawyer's apology' that did NOT admit that Cameron had actually been wrong to portray William McMaster Murdoch as a suicidal murderer. The most Twentieth Century Fox has admitted was that Murdoch was an honest hero, and they apologised to the town for any distress caused in the portrayal. It is my personal feeling that Scott Neeson has shown himself an honest man and that his presence in the town will be welcomed in the future.
  2. The media have taken the half-apology as a complete apology, and in so doing have borne out the cynical but accurate predictions of Dorothy-Grace Elder. Fortunately, the press are still keeping a watching brief.
  3. Fox are still going to release the video in September 1998 without any kind of apology in the credits. Any apology or 'Director's Cut' is going to be at least THREE YEARS away. By that time, all but the better-informed watchers of the film and the video will believe Murdoch to have been a villain.

Thanks to you, Ernie Robinson...

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.

Credit Where 'Tis Due...

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.

What we're up to now :

Scott Murdoch is still living in Kippford, as hale as ever, looking forwards to the next year. He had the delight of presenting the first pair of Murdoch Memorial Prizes at the High School Speech Day. He and I have recently completed the Kippford element of the Dalbeattie Town History together.

Ernie Rutherford lives still in Penrith and Portling. He has decided to sell his deck rug from Lifeboat 13, and there have been many enquiries at Bonham's auction rooms about it. Ernie will at last be going into print with a book on the seaman and the maritime history of this area.

Jenni Atkinson is still living in Surrey near Kew, is finally on the Internet and is researching the life ashore of William Murdoch and Ada. She is probably in the top four world scholars on the Murdoch subject and an unfailing source of surprises. Just recently I read her book 'A Girl in Square Rig' on her time in the 1976 Tall Ships Race.

Alistair Morgan, MP, will shortly be running for election as the Member of the Scottish Parliament for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale. He has been a first-class constituency MP; if all had his integrity and duty, Scotland would have a Parliament of statesmen. He continues to care for the interests of all his constituents.

Suzanne Stormer is currently recovering from serious illness at her mother's home in Germany, but will be back with the German counterpart of British Telecom shortly. We all wish her well. Her book 'Good-bye, Good Luck' is now completely sold out. Suzanne is under pressure to write another...

Dorothy-Grace Elder has carried on crusading for justice. She was with the Duchess of York reporting on the horrors of the lives of the tragic street children in St. Petersburg. She attended the Dalbeattie High School Speech Day and also presented prizes. Since September 1998 she has been campaigning in Glasgow Baillieston constituency for election as an MSP.

Linda Kirkwood has returned to the Isle of Skye and another Head is due to be appointed. Till then, the Acting Head Mr. Burns does an excellent job of running the High School.

Richard Edkins your scribe. I continue to write web pages for pleasure and for profit. I was shanghaied onto Dalbeattie Community Council as Honorary Secretary in May 1998 and have been sweating over Minutes and Correspondence since. The Dalbeattie Town History is now up on the Net, along with a variety of other pieces of information on Dumfries and Galloway Region. I stole a bit of time to write this page.

"You must have made a packet from this..."
"Not a brass farthing !"

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.

This website is being written to set the record straight on the real Lieutenant William Mcmaster Murdoch, Royal Naval Reserve. 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.

In Memoriam


This Prize is competed for annually by Fourth-Year scholars at Dalbeattie High School.
The Murdoch website has been prepared because of that Memorial.
The fund supporting this Prize needs to be increased and the account has been reopened by the Board of Governors.

To make a Donation to the official Memorial Prize.

Enquiries about William McMaster Murdoch for Mr. Scott Murdoch or Mr. Ernest Robinson can be forwarded by e-mail through :-

Main sections of the Murdoch of the 'Titanic' Website
The White Star Line Life of W.M. Murdoch RMS Titanic Collision and Aftermath The Board of Enquiry

Dalbeattie Domain website is designed and managed for pleasure and profit by

Murdoch site started 23rd January 1998,
last updated 14th April 1999.
No charge was made for the W.M.Murdoch website.