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.
I decided to summarise the witnesses given in Elizabeth Gibbons's 'To the Bitter End' as a way of seeing where Twentieth Century Fox stood, regarding Murdoch and Wilde's times of deaths :-
Charles Herbert Lightoller, ship's 2nd Officer.(on roof of officers' quarters)
Harold Sideney Bride, Radioman.(working on Collapsible A)
Archibald Gracie, Colonel, First Class passenger.(working on Collapsible A)
George McGough, Seaman.(working on Collapsible A)
The flamboyant Lightoller altered his testimony on the use of guns, but volunteered the information about William Murdoch in his letter to Ada Murdoch.
George Rheims, First Class passenger. (In sea beside ship)
Eugene Daly, Third Class passenger. (On deck, - heard shots, saw results, not event. Reliability not known.)
Thomas Whiteley, Steward. (Hearsay; generally considered unreliable)
Robert Williams Daniel, passenger. (Saw event 'from ten feet away', was sure it was Murdoch, but apparently did not know him personally)
Gibbons was sure that if anyone shot himself, it was Henry Tingle Wilde, the Chief Officer, by a process of elimination. Moody died in the water, Smith either went down with the ship or died in the water, Murdoch died when the ship abruptly sank...which only leaves Henry Tingle Wilde, poor fellow.
Curiously enough, one of my correspondents has an as yet unverified story from Geoff Whitfield of the British Titanic Society, that the 'Liverpool Echo' published a story at the time, that Wilde had shot himself. Wilde's wife had wealthy relatives who did not let the story spread past its first mention, and the story may have been re-directed at poor William Murdoch. Can anybody prove or disprove this story ?
At least two independent documentary writers have approached myself and Scott on a possible documentary for sale to Channel Four; one of them has agreed that it will either be offering support to the Fund, or making an outright donation. 'Scotland on Sunday' is nobly continuing its crusade on William Murdoch's behalf. 'The American' is also displaying an interest. Most interesting of all is a new 'West of Scotland 'Titanic' Support Group' based at a college in Glasgow area. They are building a page on the 'Titanic' and apparently are interested in William Murdoch. They are welcome to contact me.
I discussed the 'Aunt Emmie' myth and the 'Weeping Woman' at the Smith Inquiry with Scott, and he told me something that shows Murdoch was not made of stone. It appears that the White Star Line officers were rather fêted by the ladies of New York, and that some, - at least, - took advantage of this. Was William McMaster Murdoch amongst them ? I had a 'Dutch Auction' with one of my contacts, and she was inclined to give it a 60% possibility, whilst I put it at 65%. So, there you are. I would guess that William may have had his conquests before 1907, but that this seems to have been curtailed by his marriage. As a detective would say, the means and opportunity may have suggested themselves, but motive is uncertain and I feel fairly safe in supporting his alibi as a 'much-married man'. He had, after all, lost that remarkable moustache...all for the love of Ada ?
"Yes, but what about at sea...?" Well, standing watch in the North Atlantic is a different kettle of fish to balmy nights under the Tropic moon on the way to Australia. To put it cynically, a Steward of the White Star Line would have had more motive, means and opportunity, when at sea. A Watch Officer had to be to hand in case of need; even Captain Smith could not carouse at the Captain's Table, be he fêted by a millionairess or otherwise.
In Seattle, that worthy gentleman William Armour Murdoch, is sending letters to various American papers to gain support, - and, we hope, donations. I can vouch for his honour and commitment, and maybe American visitors to this site can give him support. In the long term, keeping the facts before people will have its effect.
There may be relatives of William Murdoch living in Kiribati, in the Solomon Islands. This Pacific connection does have some factors which I am checking with Scott, - one of William's brothers or uncles may have gone to the Pacific to cure his asthma. I have to admit that I received the message on 1st April, but it appears to be legit.
Today I received various articles from Dorothy-Grace Elder covering the campaign she has made to clear William Murdoch's name. One of them, the 'Scotland on Sunday' of 8th March 1998 quotes the 'Hooked on Scottish' star Paul Young as saying the following. Paul Young portrayed Murdoch in the 1979 film 'SOS Titanic' :-
I managed to find the time to add a Sites listing to this site, and had an unexpected response from an American who was not content with my punning reference to the American Titanic Historical Society site as being 'very American'. To that, I can only say that I'm 'very British', but that some of the merchandise is well worth acquisition. I have just been told that the THS is selling a lot of stuff as a consequence of the film. Maybe I should ask them for a donation to the Murdoch Memorial Prize fund...?
This doughty lady, the investigative journalist who won the UK Reporter of the Year Award, was responsible for contacting Don Lynch and obtaining his statement. She is continuing to look into the way Cameron's film portrayed William McMaster Murdoch, and is shortly to fax a statement for display on this site. When she does so, I will ask whether she is willing to supply contact phone and fax numbers. As yet, she does not have e-mail, so I will relay short messages to her, when I have some kind of e-mail forwarding destination.
Visitors to this site will be aware of the deep and abiding affection of William and Ada Murdoch. One of my more remarkable e-mails came from a lady who had found an article by Barbara Lynn Daly in the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) of 3/19/98 (19th March 1998) purportedly about an 'Auntie Emmie' who had been engaged to William McMasters Murdoch at the time of the 'Titanic' going on her maiden voyage. There's a curly-haired 5-year-old on Auntie's knee, a wedding dress that was used by niece and great-niece, a diamond necklace and a pair of diamond earrings. The article even manages to work in Fred and Adele Astaire. Very impressive. A remarkably well organised myth to add to the collection, but that's all I can make of it.
'Sweet William' was named after the Duke of Cumberland, - 'Butcher Cumberland' of the 1745 Battle of Culloden infamy - and few true Scots will allow any 'Stinking Billy' in their gardens. A more unlikely nickname for an honest Scot can hardly be imagined.
Emerging from this rosy and ridiculous dream, William lived in Southampton with his wife Ada, and had been doing so since 1907. From the time that he left with Charles Lightoller and Davie Blair for Belfast, he was a very busy ship's officer. Ada ('Aid') had to come to 'Titanic' to see him, as becomes clear in the letter he wrote his elder sister Margaret ('Peg').
Julian Clary's remarkable 'Nomadic' page answers many questions about this old and remarkable remnant of the White Star Line. In service until 1965, she must have been one of the longest-serving tenders afloat. Now she has a very uncertain future... Could she be restored as a floating museum ? Here is another good use for profits from the film. I have added the 'Nomadic' site to 'tisites.htm' and await any suggestions for good additions.
An American e-mail correspondent caused me some surprise by referring to a mythical 'Rigel', a large Newfoundland dog purported to be owned by William Murdoch. This 'faithful hound' was said to have lead lifeboats to the 'Carpathia'. According to one of the websites listed in my 'tisites.htm' this was the invention of a 'Carpathia' seaman named (I think) Jonas Briggs. Briggs seems to have spun the press a number of 'tall tales'.
Other than the bulldog that was swimming around, I have no evidence of any dog in the water, and Samuel Scott Murdoch has assured me that William and Ada never owned a dog. Whether the (?) borzoi (?) in the illustration of Captain Smith was aboard ship, I have no idea.
The Murdoch Memorial Prize fund is being supported by several honest souls over in the USA. Mr. William Armour Murdoch of Seattle has very kindly notified the 'Post Intelligencier' of Seattle and the New York magazine 'Newsweek'. Molly Touger of 'The American' interviewed myself and Scott Murdoch by phone today. In keeping with her unsinkable namesake, Ms. Touger is taking considerable interest in the 'Titanic'. My thanks to both these good folk and a wide range of others, either side of the Atlantic, who have given Scott much support.
The American Broadcasting Company has apparently reported that Cameron is planning to add an extra 15 minutes to the film, - a 'director's version', - to deal with any historical inaccuracies. If true, - and as long as it is fair to William McMaster Murdoch, - then it is excellent news. Historical accuracy is certainly better than a consensus hallucination.
The site was only started on 23rd January 1998, and at that time it was envisaged as a five-page summary centred around the life of William McMaster Murdoch. To my astonishment, - and the delight of my good friends, Scott and Ernie, - your interest in the site is pushing the hit-counter through the roof. Tonight, the 23rd March 1998, the counter has passed the one thousand mark and is rising fast. Even allowing for an average of 3 hits per day created by my own uploads and site checks, that's far more than I expected.
An unexpected side-effect has been telephone interviews by at least five journalists and face-to-face interviews with another two. The only planned interview, - with Allan Phin, retiring Editor of the 'Galloway News', - has generated local interest in Murdoch and the Memorial Prize fund. Articles in various national newspapers have generally misquoted the site, but at least there has been some valuable publicity.
Scott says 'Thank you'...
Samuel Scott Murdoch,
Mr. Samuel Scott Murdoch thanks everybody for the letters and the e-mails. He is rather overwhelmed with letters, - he is 80, and his handwritten replies take him some time, - but he enjoys his correspondence. I have been answering or acknowledging the e-mails for him, but have shown him all the e-mail received about the site.
The media continues to follow Scott for interviews, which he provides with his usual cheerful kindness. I'm not sure just how many interviews Scott has given; whilst myself and Ernie Robinson have had a couple, Scott, bless him, has faced the moving pen, microphone or camera, at least a dozen times.
Those visitors who have e-mailed me have been remarkably supportive and have, if anything, wanted more than I can get on the server at present. My problem has been getting the time to do the research and the coding; I have other things that I must do. When it's possible, I'll add a guestbook for visitors to exchange remarks, but till then I'll acknowledge e-mails.
Whilst going to buy some reams of paper, I had the great good luck of meeting the son of the first scholar to win the Murdoch Memorial Prize at his business in Castle Douglas, Forward Press. He was delighted to learn about the website, as the Prize is part of his family heritage. Maybe we can feature the prizewinners, at some time.
Mr. Philip Hind's remarkable 'Encyclopedia Titanica' is without doubt the most informative all-round interest site on the Internet. It is also a 'heavy hitter', - over 600,000 on the current counter.
I was rather moved when I discovered that Mr. Hind had added a reference link to this site to the Contacts E-mail page of his site. I thank him for this kindness, and will provide a link to his site in return.
'Encyclopedia Titanica' is at :-
Twentieth Century Fox produced a rather strange offering for screening on Independent Television (UK Broadcast Channel 3) between 11.05 and 12.35 p.m. I watched it, clipboard in hand, and found it interesting, but odd. The detail on the underwater filming was remarkable, a good source of industrial archaeology that supports Ballard's excellent work. So, too, was the reconstruction of the 'Titanic' itself, - documentary material that had a lot to commend it. Franco Zeffirelli, that director of minutiae, would surely have approved.
Rather to my dismay, the programme then changed to a rather half-hearted attempt to justify dramatic license, by stating several times that everything had been as accurate as possible. The technical work in production was, - and remains, - brilliant, but the programme made it clear that Cameron feels under attack for historical accuracy.
Strangely enough, there were few references to William McMaster Murdoch and none at all to the allegation of him killing himself. There were some sad slurs on two key significant witnesses mentioned on this website. 2nd Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller is represented threatening 'I'll shoot you [the male passengers] down like dogs'.
An even more unjustified and inaccurate 'cut' scene, purportedly showed 2nd Radio Operator Harold Sideney Bride 'telling-off' the radio operator of the 'Californian' for interrupting him whilst working Cape Race. According to Don Lynch and Ken Marschall's book, it was Philips, not Bride, who was on the morse-key at the time. Far from leaving his radio in a state of ill-usage, the radio-operator aboard the 'Californian' in fact remained listening, hoping for a break in Philips's transmissions, and only shut down ten minutes before the collision. If the scene with Bride was both 'accurate' and significant, then why was it 'cut' originally ?
Strangest of all, after his clear statements of 'accuracy', was Cameron's poorly-scripted remark that :-
'History is just a kind of consensus hallucination'.
It called to mind a famous epigram attributed to Napoleon :-
'History is an agreed fable'.
I would respectfully suggest that accuracy and hallucination do not go together, and that it is not a gesture of wisdom to confuse them for each other. Certainly it does no justice to the remarkable historical accuracy Mr. Cameron insisted upon for the structure and fittings of the great super-liner herself.
Don Lynch is acknowledged in America as one of the foremost authorities on the 'Titanic', and I have read his and Marschall's book with keen interest. His position on the death of William McMaster Murdoch remained unclear to me until today, but I am grateful to him for making it clear.
My wife Jenny drew my attention to page 340 of Independent Television's Teletext Borders service, 8:30 a.m. Monday 23rd March 1998. Exact text follows :-
An adviser to the film Titanic has said he warned the director against inaccurately portraying the Scottish first officer as a cowardly murderer.
Historian Don Lynch said the screen character of William Murdoch is not backed by any historical evidence.
Alasdair Morgan, MP for Dalbeattie where Murdoch lived, is calling for an apology from 20th Century Fox.
All we need now is more money in the Murdoch Memorial Prize fund. Tell your friends.
Scott has passed his copy of the Board of Inquiry report to me, so I will be adding more material to the 'tiboenq.htm' (Board of Inquiry) file...and I will split it into at least four sections. This will let me get further on with ticolafb.htm and ticolafc.htm - the sections most people want more on.
I have been reminded of the testimony of Colonel Archibald Gracie and the original mess caused by Edward Rheims. So far, we have Bride, Gracie and Lightoller, in order of probable reliability. The best of the competent eye-witnesses support the honour of William McMaster Murdoch, as does correspondence to Scott from descendants of those helped into the boats by William. If Scott permits it, I will try to put some of these letters on the site in a few months' time.
Scott, Ernie and myself, will shortly be collaborating on those parts of Dalbeattie Town History that cover the seawards end of the Urr Valley. I'm loading images into a 'Views of Galloway' site, so you can see the countryside around Dalbeattie. Apart from the odd bit of mechanisation, the main change since William's day is the vast amount of afforestation...but, I'm a bit in advance of myself. Enough to say that it's a wonderful place to visit, with sailing, golf, walks in the woods, seashore and woodland birds, and a kind attitude to visitors.
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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