The Life and Mystery of First Officer William Murdoch
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About the author
The author and website designer is based in Brighton, United Kingdom. He has been researching the Titanic and especially the ship's officers, since the late 1980s when his interest began with the building of a large scale cardboard model of the ship. Since then he has formed a large collection of books and memorabilia.
After the release of James Cameron's film in 1997 he took a particular interest in the controversy surrounding the portrayal of First Officer William Murdoch and decided to launch an impartial investigation into his life and the mystery surrounding his death. Despite his initial reservations that the shooting and suicide were most likely simply rumour and speculation he was surprised to discover the scope of the testimony and evidence and in reponse to some emotional statements being made by researchers and media alike decided to release his information in the form of a mongraph in the year 2000. This was later made into a simple website that has now been redesigned and updated with the latest information. With the hundreth anniversary in 2012 there has been a surge of information as much of which is being updated and added to the website.
Website Author's Conclusions
This website is a serious and on-going attempt to provide a single resource centre to enable research into William McMaster Murdoch's life and the
mystery surrounding his death. It it not an attempt to provide any conclusive answers as such is unlikely unless dramatic and conclusive new evidence is
revealed. Nonetheless, after many years of gathering data from a variety of sources and analysing several theories and opinions, this website has provided
an opportunity for the website author to list six simple conclusions based on information gained thus far:
1. William Murdoch was an honorable seaman with an enviable history of devotion and promotion.
2. William Murdoch fulfilled his duties as Titanic's First Officer to the utmost extent both in capacity as officer of the watch during
the collision with the iceberg and as officer in charge of the starboard evacuation. His actions were nothing short of heroic.
3. There is overwhelming eyewitness testimony and evidence regarding the use of guns to control the evacuation and it is highly probable
that a person or persons were injured and/or shot by Titanic's crew on at least one occasion.
4. There is overwhelming eyewitness testimony and evidence regarding a Titanic officer committing suicide, although the identity of that
officer is uncertain.
5. There is no evidence available as yet to prove that William Murdoch was not the Titanic officer involved in the above points 3 and 4.
6. Of the likely candidates involved in point 4, only Chief Officer Henry Wilde and First Officer William Murdoch fit the
descriptions. Eyewitness testimony, circumstantial evidence and psychological profiling suggests William Murdoch is the more probable of the two.
How were the above six conclusions formed? The following is an expanded conclusion based on these six points and all information outlined in this website.
When I first heard James Cameron (of Terminator fame) was going to direct a film regarding the sinking of Titanic -a subject I had spent over a decade
studying- I will have to admit that I had grave misgivings, especially upon learning that the tragedy would be relegated to the backdrop of a fictional love
story. Then I discovered that Titanic historian Don Lynch and Titanic visual historian Ken Marschall were involved in the production and I saw an element of
hope. However, the inclusion of Murdoch's suicide somewhat shocked me. My first reaction was: Is this dramatic/artistic license or based on fact? Until
then, my knowledge of Titanic's First Officer was admittedly limited. I referred to several authoritative publications to discover that very little
information exists on Murdoch's background, even less on the allegations of suicide. Thus began a three-year investigation that resulted in the compilation
of my research into a 150-page monograph (printed in 2000) and now this website -more than ten years of continuing research.
At the outset, several questions were asked regarding William Murdoch. Having considered all this information, is it unreasonable to suggest that any
conclusions can be ascertained? This document is, after all, a proverbial "work in progress." However, while many questions regarding Murdoch's life and
death will always remain open ended (unless in the unlikely occurrence that further valid and conclusive documentation are uncovered) there are certain
lines of evidence that are unavoidably obvious, even to the casual reader.
In reviewing the pre-Titanic history of Murdoch there is no doubt that he was a mariner with an enviable history of diligence and reliability, steadily
climbing his way through the hierarchy with the prospect of one-day captaining his own ship a solid fixture on the not-to-distant horizon. Character
references from all quarters testify to his amiable personality. A modest gentleman, sensitive to the needs of his family, he had followed in the Murdoch
tradition, a proud member of a seafaring family that had nurtured in him a love for the ocean.
Unlike other sailors who relied heavily on theory, Murdoch was a practical, instinctive mariner, no better seen than in the case of the Arabic when he
disobeyed the orders of his superior and in doing so avoided a collision. When you visualise a young Murdoch rushing into the wheelhouse, brushing aside
the quartermaster and holding the ship on course, narrowly averting the collision, we see a man who quickly responds to an event, taking decisive action.
His response on the bridge of the Arabic was an apt foregleam of his activity aboard the bridge of Titanic nine years later. On the sighting of the
iceberg, he is quick and decisive, relying on his immediate instinct honed after sixteen years of experience. At the height of the emergency he disregards
his 'superior,' possibly even going 'against the book' and giving orders that in those circumstances were not necessarily recommended.
But in this case, rather than averting a collision, it causes a tragedy unparalleled in maritime history. But can we blame Murdoch's 'gut instinct'?
Not necessarily. He was, after all, the only officer to take preventative action, ensuring that the lookouts and the bridge were not obscured by light from
the fore scuttle hatch. In addition, both Lightoller and Smith had not made any alteration in course and speed, and Murdoch was ultimately acting under
The physics involved in his decision of "hard-a-starboard" and "full astern" have been hotly debated. But while Titanic's designers calculate that a
head-on collision would not have caused the ship to sink, they estimate there could have been at least 100 casualties to which Murdoch would have been
"blamed" -people asking why any sane officer would run a ship head-long into an iceberg and not take measures to avoid it. Others point out that after the
sinking, when the bow plunged into the seabed at a similar speed to which the Titanic would have hit the iceberg head-on, it caused a huge separating in her
hull's superstructure (refer to wreck photographs and you will see this on the starboard side, just before the bridge). If this had occurred at sea level,
some say the Titanic may have sunk in 15 minutes -like the Lusitania.
Conversely, if Murdoch had only ordered a full turn to port, some suggest the ship would have cleared the iceberg sufficiently. But would this be true,
remembering that there would be a delay in the rudder mechanism's response during which the ship would have been steaming at full speed toward the obstacle,
in addition to the fact that a hasty hard-a-port maneuver would be required to clear the stern. Some suggest that Murdoch sighted the iceberg before the
lookouts and was already taking evasive action to avoid the ice -action that ultimately caused a collision (refer to Hard-a-Starboard -A Myth?), while
others conclude that he was in fact performing a "hard-a-port" maneuver that failed (refer to The Last Log Of Titanic -Four Revisionist Theories).
It seems Murdoch was in a 'catch 22' position. Whatever his response, it would be fraught with danger and random possibilities. Rather than speculate
on the 'what ifs' it is more relevant to investigate why a ship entered into a predicament where it was sailing at full speed into an ice field in deceptive
sea and weather conditions, having received numerous ice warnings, with a lifeboat capacity of barely half the number of passengers, decisions made by
person's with greater authority than Murdoch.
As with any situation or crisis, someone has to be in charge at the time. In this case, that regrettable duty fell to First Officer Murdoch. As a man
sensitive to the feelings of others (evident in his letters to his family) the aftermath of the collision would undoubtedly have affected him. He was not a
callous individual who would have brushed aside the incident as being just mere chance that he was in command at the time. This was the 'largest most
luxurious ship in the world' and purportedly 'unsinkable.' There were many wealthy and influential people aboard. And, indeed, it was the maiden voyage.
Now it was going to sink, with grossly insufficient lifeboat capacity.
To understand to a limited extent what Murdoch was going through, it can be illustrated by the horror one would experience as the innocent driver of a
car that is involved in a fatal accident. While not directly to blame, indirect involvement in an event that ends in severe injury or death takes its toll
on the human emotions. To be fair, the illustration is inadequate in many respects, since Murdoch was a professional and in charge of a team, rather than
an every-day citizen alone in a vehicle, and his collision affected the lives of far more than just one individual. On the other hand, the iceberg
collision did not cause instant death to 1500, the full number of casualties not know until the tragedy was well advanced.
The extent of the after-affect will never be fully known, but can be understood more clearly by his actions during the starboard evacuation. This is
when Murdoch really came into his element. Both the gentle and uncompromising aspects of his nature are revealed during the next two hours. It was
important that passengers were not fully aware of the predicament for fear that a panic ensued and hindered the safe launching of lifeboats. Here he
excelled, reassuring and calming passengers by various devices which even included finding humour in his dealings with the Duff Gordons and the corpulent
Henry Stengel. Only when he spoke to steward Hardy and Third Officer Pitman did he divulge what he was really feeling underneath his brave exterior: "I
believe she's gone" to Hardy and "Good bye, good luck" to Pitman. Only in these rare moments did the two men he spoke to realise that Murdoch knew a lot
more than most that night: the great leviathan was going to sink.
Ironically, while keeping the passengers calm worked to avoid a panic, it also worked to Murdoch's disadvantage. Many of the first lifeboats launched
left half-full, a fact that cannot be blamed on the hard-working officer. He ordered the boats to take measures to gain further passengers, an order that
was never adequately acted on. He also took a more reasonable approach to the 'women and children first' rule, allowing men aboard only once all women and
children that could be found were seated (in contrast to Lightoller's hard-and-fast 'women and children only'). Even so, lifeboat No.1, capacity of 40,
departed with just 12. We can only imagine the frustration he felt as he reluctantly ordered it to be lowered. As in the case of the iceberg collision,
he did all in his power to rectify the situation. But as later stated by Lightoller, it seemed that 'everything was against them that night.'
Soon, as the remaining number of lifeboats quickly diminished, such calming behaviour became obsolete as passengers and crew began to fully comprehend
the extent of their dilemma. The uncompromising and focused nature of Murdoch then came into play. He was not going to allow an unruly mob to risk the
safe departure of his lifeboats and he vigorously shouted, "Stand back!" to those who threatened to swamp the launching. The speed of the loading had to
increase in response to the pressure from the crowds, and in some accounts we have images of Murdoch 'chucking them across' into the boat and in thwarting
interlopers it is explained that 'they were really flying before Mr. Murdoch.'
One cannot help but notice the painful irony of Murdoch calling out for more women or children (or anyone in the case of No.1) and then a mere twenty
minutes later having to take drastic action to avoid complete and utter chaos by commanding the crowds to 'stay back.' But he never gave up. He remained
active in his attempts even as the ocean began to creep up the forward boat deck, frustrating his endeavour to launch his last remaining lifeboat.
In summary, Murdoch was an instinctive, honest, sensitive and brave sailor. There is no evidence of negligence, inactivity or cowardice. Like many of
the 1500 lost that night, the loss was great indeed. Only one possible blemish exists in his record and that occurs in the wake of the Titanic tragedy.
Termed the "weeping woman" it is an incident that does not fit squarely in the Murdoch canon (refer to the "The Weeping Woman"). Who was the woman who went
out of her way to make a public display of her emotions? For fear of being 'cheap' it would be unwise to state the feasibility that this "society lady of
New York" was something more. But if she was just an admirer, would she go out of her way to be humiliated in front of so many people at the Senate Inquiry?
I feel that a mere 'admirer' would not behave as such, or be "judged near hysterics". William Murdoch was undoubtedly a good-looking man and in his
position had many female 'admirers'. Would one be dangerously trespassing into the territory of undue conjecture and speculation to suggest that this woman
was something beyond the obvious, that Murdoch had more than just a friendly admirer on the other side of the Atlantic? Of course, there is no other
evidence to prove or disprove such, but it is an additional factor that may add to any vulnerability on that fateful night. Another interesting aspect of
this unusual event is Lightoller's reluctance to tell the woman the news. While no one likes to break bad news, you would think in front of all these people
he would at least put on a 'brave face.' Maybe he knew the woman and her involvement with Murdoch? Or maybe he really knew what happened to Murdoch and
did not relish having to conceal his true fate?
This perilous line of reasoning and its mere suggestion is not worthy of any further consideration without the unlikely opportunity and advantage of
further information. However, it does raise a vital issue involved in researching the life of Murdoch: perception of the facts. To suggest that Murdoch
was possibly having an affair would logically impute that he was unfaithful and by extension mar his reputation. It is on this point -his reputation- that
causes so many to give way to an appeal to their emotional belief that such could never happen. And to rule out an event with scant evidence for doing so
creates a closed circuit in the research, limiting pathways that should remain open if a researcher is to cover all options. This has resulted in a narrow
-minded view of events. If you begin with preconceived ideas, it undoubtedly limits the chances of discovering truth. It is almost universal that the
mystery element of his life and death has been loaded with negative connotations, which predisposes the investigator from the start.
The stigma associated with the possibility that an officer may have committed suicide on the decks of the sinking Titanic has caused a prejudice that
warps all further research into the subject. As already considered (in the chapter "Circumstantial Evidence") the suicide scenario has to be viewed in the
context of 1912 Edwardian culture, split apart by an incomprehensible disaster, with the ideals of a pride, reputation, status and 'noble suicides'
highlighted as structured society fragmented. Men such as Guggenheim are praised as going down as gentlemen -when in effect they were committing suicide-
while the thought of an officer committing suicide is frowned upon as 'cowardly'. Richard Edkins goes as far as to term it "self-murder". In addition,
shooting passengers is termed 'murderous'. It is on these points that I believe that so many falter: their perception of events.
If an officer did indeed shoot passengers there is no need to label it murderous; there is no reason to believe that any officer would have shot
passengers with murderous intent but with a completely opposite motive: protection, attempting to save more lives. There is an added possibility that such
gunfire was accidental, not intended to have humans as targets. But it is the bitter irony of the situation -to save lives, by using a gun- that links it
with suicide. While, of course, killing any human should never be promoted, the intent of the officer is almost always neglected and it is immediately and
erroneously termed as "murder" when the complete opposite was more likely the case.
As for suicide, it is discriminatory to label victims 'cowards' or 'self-murderers' for reasons already discussed in the chapter "Circumstantial
Evidence". To state that suicide is cowardly is to condemn all suicide victims, when instead we should feel compassion and a desire to understand what would
drive a person to see death as their only option (it is sad that researchers who have investigated the possibility that William Murdoch may have been the
suicide victim have been unscrupulously labeled the 'Murdoch Mafia' as if such allegations transform the innocent officer into some form of criminal).
Regrettably, most of the information or evidence regarding a suicide is ambiguous to say the least, but it is only through an unbiased, unprejudiced
review of the facts and rumours can a logical analysis be made. With no preconceived notion in mind I have attempted to thoroughly research this issue.
Throughout the vast amount of literature covering the disaster since 1912, few have even considered the prospect that a suicide took place, relegating it to
rumour and myth. This is not surprising, since if one takes just an individual statement in a 1912 newspaper of someone who heard someone else mention a
suicide, it does not inspire confidence. Without documentation or even a clear line of evidence, it can easily be dismissed.
Such dismissal has occurred on an individual basis because there has been no attempt to form a 'big picture'. It is comparable to assuming the complete
picture on the basis of one fragment of a jig-saw puzzle. For the first time, in this "Murdoch: The Man, The Mystery," an attempt to gain the 'big picture'
has been made, to the extent that all references, regardless of questionable accuracy, were included as valid personal testimony. And in doing so, some
surprising results have been uncovered.
First, reports as to suicide have not been limited to one or two disgruntled passengers. There are at least 24 separate accounts (9 eyewitnesses, 15/16
additional "second-hand" versions, plus 12 'related' accounts). These are the statements we have knowledge of. Since by far the majority of the 712 or
more survivors were never able to relate their stories to the world, there are undoubtedly others who could 'fill in the picture.' Even more so, since most
of the lifeboats had been launched by the time of the alleged suicide, most of those present who could relate what really happened would be among the 1500
who perished that night (to every one survivor's account of the tragedy, there would be at least two accounts lost to the sea). Remember that if a suicide
did take place, only a handful would have observed it due to the huge number of people in such a small area (causing obstructions), the lack of lighting,
the utter chaos and confusion and, importantly, the fact that each individual would have been intent on their own survival and not necessarily focusing on
the events surrounding them. In other words, most of those who saw what really occurred were lost with the ship. So, in reality, to have 24 separate suicide
witnesses, plus many other 'related' accounts, forces an unbiased researcher to at the very least investigate the possibility that there is some truth
embedded in there somewhere, based on numbers alone. Adding to this, in the normal course of rumour facts are distorted and changed depending on the
individuals and their imagination. However, the factors involved almost always remain the same and their consistency unavoidable: an officer, in control of
launching a lifeboat, shooting unruly passengers and then himself.
If we take a look at the social strata of those who mentioned a suicide we see a fairly even spread across the three classes and crew, plus a variety of
ages and cultural backgrounds which rules out possible prejudice or racism. Frequency and the diversity of the survivor's accounts means that we have
everything from young steerage class teenagers, to prominent and wealthy passengers, the highest ranking surviving officer (Lightoller) and even the New
York vice-president of the White Star Line. Not only this, but when one takes an in-depth look into each account, the person's background, their
reliability, their location and so forth it reveals a startling ring of truth, rather than a media myth concocted for a drama hungry public.
And it is clear that it is not a 'media myth' when you consider the private letters written days after the disaster. The first was written on the 18th
of April, 1912, by Miss Laura Francatelli (secretary to Lady Duff Gordon) to someone named Marion and including a mention of the officer who loaded and
launched their boat (No.1) committing suicide when she was '200 yards away'. This was the first documented account of an officer's suicide. And, not to be
ignored, it was Murdoch who was involved in the loading and lowering of No.1. In fact, it is quite interesting that a considerable section of the evidence
for an officer's suicide consists of personal letters written over this time period of 18th-20th of April, 1912, within a week of the tragedy. They are
Francatelli, George Rheims and Mrs. Widener -written consecutively on the three days of 18th, 19th and 20th of April, 1912 (I have included full copies of
these letters in this document of all except Mrs. Widener's). Walter Lord's remarks regarding the contrasts between George Rheims and Eugene Daly should
not be ignored either, one from First Class, the other from steerage, one French, the other Irish, both writing independent yet complimentary accounts.
As for details, of the 24 people some refer to an "officer," others mentioning "chief officer" (which can refer to either Wilde or Murdoch) and several
that specifically mention Murdoch by name (10 altogether). Some are relating rumour, while others are eyewitness accounts (nine in total). One needs to
carefully analyse each individual and their credibility and obtain the 'big picture.' The result is a fairly strong and consistent story of suicide that
makes it very difficult to allege that no suicide happened at all. In simple terms, in all likelihood it is not a matter of if, but who.
Some have alleged that the term "officer" could apply to anyone wearing a hat or uniform similar to any of the senior crew. However, the "officer"
concerned who commits suicide is almost always depicted as attempting to control the launch of the collapsible, and threatening and/or shooting passengers
who disobey him. This could only apply to an actual officer, not any other member of crew or a passenger, since the senior crew would automatically
override their authority. And since there is strong evidence suggesting that only senior members of the crew were issued guns for crowd control -Smith,
Wilde, Murdoch and Lightoller- then we can be reasonably certain that an "officer" could only apply to these men. However, only three were ever in overall
command of launching lifeboats, Captain Smith being a rather vague character during the evacuation. He would also be distinctly different in appearance,
with a white beard, to clearly distinguish him from the other senior officers.
It is at this point in the discussion that narrowing down the identity of the officer becomes arguably the most controversial aspect of the suicide
allegations. Both Walter Lord and Richard Edkins have proposed rather laboured pieces of circumstantial evidence that are presented in the form of the
Sherlockian "process of elimination." While leaning heavily into the field of speculation, it does have the benefit of eliminating those less likely to
have been the suicide victim. Conversely, the simple fact is that the bodies of the officers who died were never recovered and thus cannot be decisively
ruled out. Plus, since one account mentions 'officers' -plural- it need not be just one identity.
Basically, it works on the premise that due to the volume of information from various quarters regarding a suicide, it seems highly likely that an
officer of Titanic did commit suicide. Since Lightoller, Pitman, Boxhall and Lowe survived, it leaves Captain Smith, Chief Officer Wilde, First Officer
Murdoch, Sixth Officer Moody and Purser McElroy. Since McElroy's body was later found and there was no evidence of a suicide ever reported and loading
lifeboats were not generally part of a purser's duty anyway, he is eliminated from the list almost immediately. As for Captain Smith, there is the ambiguous
'related' report from a young boy about the Captain putting a gun to his head and falling down. But there are three important points to consider: 1/ his
identity, with a full white beard, would make him comparatively different and not one of the 24 witnesses described the officer concerned as having a beard
2/ most accounts place the suicide at collapsible A, with the officer launching the boat at the time, while Smith was a rather inactive participant during
those final hours and did not personally control the individual launching of lifeboats 3/ there are several reports of him diving into the ocean and/or seen
after the sinking of the forward boat deck.
Thus, we are left with Wilde, Murdoch and Moody as possible suicide identities. The suggestion that motives and circumstances that seemingly make Murdoch
appear to be the victim can be applied with equal force to both Wilde and Moody is certainly valid. Wilde's name is mentioned in one account, his title
chief officer in another and he had suffered a family tragedy, felt uneasy about the ship, in uncomfortable circumstances when aboard, suffered a tragedy
beyond the comprehension of most sailors, was the one who prompted the issuing of guns. Moody
also applies to much of the above, also being on the bridge at the time of the collision (the one who received the message from the lookouts) and assisted
in Murdoch's starboard evacuation. Importantly, all three men have been generally placed on the forward starboard boat deck at collapsible A at one time or
another, where general consensus has a large number of passengers descending on the forward starboard boat deck, with the attempted launch of collapsible A,
an officer struggling to retain control and the subsequent shooting and suicide allegations.
Are there any means by which at least one officer can be eliminated or put forward as a more likely candidate? There have been valiant attempts by those
who label the officer's actions as 'murderous' and 'cowardly' to eliminate Murdoch from the list, by using accounts from Lightoller, Bride and Gracie.
However, on close inspection it is clear that none of the three really saw what happened to Murdoch in the end. But their accounts do accomplish one key
objective: Murdoch is positively identified as 1/ working at collapsible A, while the whereabouts of Wilde and Moody is unsure and open to speculation
and 2/ being the possible suicide victim (since they do not refer to any other officer in defending the allegations).
Without putting too fine a point on it, each candidate does have his or her strengths and weakness in respect to plausibility. For instance, only two of
the officers had known access to revolvers, only Wilde and Murdoch being present at the issuing of guns. Moody is never referred to as ever having possession of
a revolver or ever having fired a gun. In fact, of the three, only Murdoch is mentioned firing his revolver. In addition, Moody's name is not once
mentioned in any of the suicide witness's accounts, neither does he have any apparent motive for suicide. And while Murdoch and Wilde are closely matched,
Wilde was not in charge of the bridge at the time of the collision, or had to relay the bad news to the Captain. Neither was he as active as Murdoch in
loading and lowering the lifeboats, experiencing the frustration of half-empty boats, or the sudden change in circumstances when force is the only way to
prevent a lifeboat being swamped. We also have evidence that suggests Wilde was in possession of a life-jacket and was last seen smoking a cigarette neither of which
indicates a suicidal man with a loaded revolver. And then there's Murdoch's background, his sensitivity to people's feelings, his disappointment at being demoted at the
last minute and his natural instinctive manner of dealing with situations on the spur of the moment.
However, there is no irrefutable evidence to prove that Murdoch is the identity of the suicide victim. But neither is there irrefutable evidence to prove that
he is not. There is only one other alternate ending given, a quote from Titanic & Her Sisters Olympic and Brittanic in which Murdoch 'gave his
lifebelt and gun to another passenger to help them before being swallowed by the dark icy waters' (p.489). However, the author has found no documentation
concerning the source or validity of this account. Taken on face value it seems unlikely this would happen when Murdoch was involved in the launch of
collapsible A, there is no reference to him ever having a lifejacket, and no explanation as to why he would need to give his Webley revolver to another
passenger. Even so, if this did occur, it could be argued that there is little difference between sacrificing a lifebelt and sacrificing a chance at life
by committing suicide with a gun.
It would be dangerous for any researcher to adamantly presume that any one of the officers just mentioned are definitely the suicide victim (since, as
stated before, their bodies were never recovered to prove or disprove any theory). While Murdoch is outstanding among the candidates, the evidence is
elusive and ambiguous at best and only in the light of further more detailed data could the question of identity become clearer.
However, in the unrestrained, artistic forum of the entertainment industry, simplicity is the axiom that directors and screenplay writers live by and, in
reflection, it is not unusual that Cameron decided to portray Murdoch the way he did. It was a logical choice, just as he chose to portray Wallace Hartley
playing "Nearer My God To Thee" as the 'last tune' or any other of the many gray areas in Titanic legend. Realistically, only a small percent of the true
story is verifiable and whatever manner a director chooses to depict an event will always fall under the questionable gaze of detail hungry historians. The
genre itself does not lend itself to strict accuracy. Films such as "Schindler's List" and "Braveheart" (both also winning Academy Awards) are reputedly
based on fact. But you only need to broach the subject with a holocaust or Scottish historian and you will soon discover that accuracy is not the mainstay
of film making.
James Cameron's "Titanic" is, after all, a love story, not a documentary. There is no doubting Cameron's passion for the ship, going to all manner of
lengths to recreate the legend, risking his professional career in doing so. But since it is fairly evident that a suicide did take place on the decks of
Titanic, it was a matter of making an artistic decision based on present day knowledge. And there is no denying Cameron's passion for the role of First
Officer and his admiration for the man that took that title. He terms him "honorable" and having a "sense of responsibility," "character" and "heroism".
The depiction of his alleged suicide was not intended to destroy Murdoch's reputation, but quite the opposite.
In response, though, the town of Dalbeattie wanted a retraction and apology. Under the circumstances neither was required and Twentieth Century Fox was
under no obligation to respond to the request. It is to their credit that they have supported the Murdoch Memorial Prize.
In looking at such an issue that has unfortunately become clouded by emotion due to geographic or historical prejudice, this document has not intended to
solve any mysteries, or create any bias toward a certain line of reasoning. The objective has been to provide a database of information and for the reader
to draw their own conclusions. As a "work in progress," correction, further details, criticism or documentation is welcomed.
In reading the account of Murdoch's activities aboard Titanic, there is one section of his life of which little if nothing is known about: the time
between the 10pm change over and the collision. I sometimes wonder what Murdoch did during this hour and a half. It was cold, he would have had a heavy
overcoat on, possibly noted a mystery light on the horizon and was keeping an eye on it, went through the usual checks, conversed briefly with Boxhall and
Moody... But what was he thinking? Did he register that they were steering directly into an ice field? He makes no adjustments to speed or course, does
not alert the Captain at 11pm that at this hour it had been predicted they would reach the ice field. He seems almost preoccupied, with something else on
his mind. His demotion? The mystery "weeping woman" that he would meet in New York? Maybe he knew there was ice ahead and wanted to disprove the
Captain's distrust in him and his consequent demotion by relying completely on his own instincts. Does he note the haze on the horizon that appears at
11:30pm? Only moments later he hears the three bells ring from the lookout and he instantly recognises it: collision warning signal.
These three simple rings of a bell -and their ramifications for Murdoch- continue to echo down to this day.