Dalbeattie Town History

Murdoch of the 'Titanic' :

The Memorial and the Public Meeting :

The recent release in the United Kingdom of the film 'Titanic' has yet again brought the actions of her crew under public scrutiny. Unfortunately, this has also perpetuated myths about the principal officers such as Captain Smith and his First Officer William McMaster Murdoch. The film has incorrectly portrayed Murdoch as a corrupt man who shot two panicking passengers and then committed suicide by shooting himself.

In fact, First Officer Murdoch took action to try to avert the collision, and to assist with the safe embarkation of passengers in the lifeboats. This was witnessed by both Second Officer Charles Lightoller and the Second Wireless Operator and Marconi employee Harold Bride. Both saw Murdoch trying to untangle the falls (hoist ropes on a lifeboat's davits) seconds before the ship sank, throwing them all into the water. Murdoch's actions throughout were those of a reasonable and honorable seaman.

Minutes of the Dalbeattie Town Council Public Meeting 20th August 1912

This meeting was held to discuss the suitability of erecting a memorial to Lieutenant William McMaster Murdoch, Royal Naval Reserve, First Officer of the 'Titanic'. The Town Council were very aware of the position that William had been placed in, and the rumours surrounding his death. For this reason, a full copy of the minutes was published in the 'Dumfries & Galloway Standard & Advertiser' of 21st August 1912 :-

Proposed Memorial to Lieut. Murdoch
Public Meeting in Dalbeattie

Last night a public meeting was held in Dalbeattie to consider the propriety of taking steps to raise a memorial to the late Lieutenant Murdoch, who was 38 [Error: he was 39] years of age, belonged to a sailor family, and was the son of Captain Samuel Murdoch, Oakland [Cottage], Dalbeattie.

The meeting was held in the Town Hall and there was a large attendance.

Provost McLaurin, who presided, said it was some time since the news of the disaster caused consternation throughout the whole country, and many no doubt thought that the meeting should have been called earlier. Those who, like himself, knew Mr. Murdoch intimately never for a moment doubted that he did his duty faithfully and well. (Applause.) But he thought it was right to wait for the full report of the inquiry before taking steps; and the official report, which had now been issued, showed that Mr. Murdoch not only did his duty, but that he did it well. (Applause.) He called upon Mr. James Little, town clerk, to move the first resolution.

Mr. Little moved the following resolution : "That steps be taken to raise a memorial to the late Mr. Murdoch, the First Officer of the ill-fated Titanic." It was well, he said, to postpone the meeting until after the inquiry was held, because although a good many of those in Dalbeattie knew what Mr. Murdoch would do in the circumstances, others to whom an appeal would be made would not know so well. They all knew that Mr. Murdoch was the man on the bridge on the night of the disaster, and a serious responsibility rested upon him on that occasion. From the official report that had been issued Mr. Little read a number of extracts, which, he held, showed that Mr. Murdoch did all that was humanly possible immediately before and after the contact with the iceberg. Lord Mersey held that the vessel was going at too great a speed. But the Captain [Smith] was alone responsible for the speed of the vessel, and Mr.Murdoch had nothing whatever to do with it. Duty performed as he performed it was nothing short of heroism - (applause) - and it was only such heroism that was in keeping with the best traditions of British seamanship. (Applause.) They had all been glad to see their townsman occupying such a high position in his profession, and it was their duty to commemorate in some tangible form what he had done. (Applause.)

The Rev. J.A. Paton, United Free Church Manse, seconded the resolution. He said that he had always been struck with Mr. Murdoch's courteous, brave and unassuming manner, and in commemmorating his action on the night of the disaster they were honouring themselves and the community, as well as offering solace, comfort and satisfaction, to his grief-stricken relatives. (Applause.)

The motion was carried unanimously.

Bailie Newall moved that they send a minute of condolence to the relatives of Mr. Murdoch. He was sure that his father and mother, and wife and other relatives, deserved their sympathy on the death of Mr. Murdoch under such circumstances. (Applause.)

Mr. Alex Wilson, coal agent, seconded the motion. The knew Mr. Murdoch to be, he thought, one of the finest seamen they had ever turned out of their burgh.

The following committee, with power to add to their number, was then appointed to make the preliminary arrangements with regard to the raising of the memorial. Provost McLaurin, Bailie Newall, Bailie Dornan, Councillors Jack, Clark, Rae, Shennan, Mundall and McGill, Captain John Candlish, [of] Dalbeattie; Mr. W.J. Armistead, Kippford; Mr. Alex. Wilson, Mr. James Little, town clerk; Captain Cassady, Lauriesbon; Captain Rae, Anchordale; ex-Bailie Craik, Rev. J.A. Paton, Mr. J.E. Milligan, solicitor; Mr. J. Tait, builder; Captain Ewart, Boreland, Colvend; Mr. R. Wilson, burgh surveyor; Dr. John Ewart, Stourbridge; Mr. J.M. Austin, registrar; and ex-Provost Davie.

The proceedings terminated with a vote of thanks to Provost McLaurin for presiding.

The monument was prepared and erected by the end of 1912. The writer is fairly certain that it was made at Newall's granite polishing works, the buildings of which now house the 'Jet' Petrol Station and Jardine Motors.

This page was prepared with assistance from Samuel Scott Murdoch, the nephew of the First Officer of the 'Titanic', and from the maritime historian Ernest Robinson.

Life of W.M. Murdoch The White Star Line RMS Titanic Collision and Aftermath The Board of Enquiry

In Memoriam

Monument to William McMaster Murdoch on Dalbeattie Town Hall

The MURDOCH MEMORIAL PRIZE is competed for annually at Dalbeattie High School.
This page has been prepared because of that Memorial.
The fund supporting this Prize needs to be increased and the account has been reopened.
To make a Donation

Enquiries about William McMaster Murdoch for Mr. S.S. Murdoch can be forwarded by e-mail through :-

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

Murdoch site started 23rd January 1998,
last updated 19th February 1998.
No charge was made for the W.M.Murdoch website.