The Life and Mystery of First Officer William Murdoch
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"Elizabeth Crogent" and the Muirhead Clan Society Database
On the "Mother Bedford" website which is devoted primarily to the history of Old-Bedford County, there is a geneological section that details the family tree
of William Muirhead, which includes William McMaster Murdoch, and his ancestors and relatives. It includes a reference to a Elizabeth Crogent from Liverpool that allegedly William Murdoch married after divorcing Ada prior to 1912, information apparantly "derived from the Muirhead Clan Society database". Of course as this main article reveals, the man Elizabeth Crogent married is different from Titanic's William Murdoch. However, for reference the relevant section is reprinted here:
"Jane Murdoch Muirhead, daughter of Thomas and Catherine Muirhead, was married twice. Her first marriage was to Samuel Murdoch, a son of James Murdoch and
Agnes Cumming. They gave birth to: Mary, born 1865; James, born 1867; Mary Agnes, born 19 November, 1870; William McMaster, born 28 February, 1873; Jeannie,
born 1875; Samuel Jr, born 03 July, 1880; and Margaret Elizabeth, born 1882 and died 09 June 1973. The first two children were born at Liverpool, England,
while the second two were born at Dalbeattie, in Kircudbrightshire, Scotland. The couple apparently divorced shortly after the birth of the last child. The
Muirhead Clan Society database gives Samuel’s death date as 06 March,1917, but Jane married her second husband, James Carlyle, on 24 August, 1884. The second
marriage produced no children. Jane died on 20 January, 1914.
William McMaster Murdoch, son of Samuel and Jane Murdoch, was married twice. His first marriage was to Ada Florence Banks. Ada was born on 28 December, 1873
at New Zealand. She died on 21 April, 1941 also at New Zealand. William’s second marriage was to Elizabeth Crogent. Elizabeth had been born at Liverpool, in
Lancashire, England. It would appear, that since Ada outlived William, the couple must have divorced prior to the year 1912 when he died, and prior to his
second marriage. (The dates given are derived from the Muirhead Clan Society database, and therefore may be in error.) William is noted for being aboard the
Titanic when it sank after striking an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean on the night of 15 April, 1912.
Jeannie Murdoch, daughter of Samuel and Jane Murdoch, married ----- Sibbald.
Samuel Murdoch Jr., son of Samuel and Jane Murdoch, married Martha Patience Scott. Martha was born on 16 July, 1891. Samuel died on 19 January, 1950. Martha
died on 31 December, 1976."(Source)
Did Murdoch have a second wife in Liverpool and father children?
Shortly after the release and subsequent box office success of James Cameron's 1997 film "Titanic," stories began to immerge alleging that First Officer Murdoch led a double life as a bigamist fathering seven children in Liverpool with a woman by the name of Elizabeth Crogent. This of course contradicts the official record which states that he left his widow Ada in Southampton childless, with no descendants.
If Titanic's first officer was a bigamist (technically an act of entering into a marriage with one person while still legally married to another) there should be a paper trail exposing this. However those who claim to be descendents of such an arrangement argue that "the children were out of wedlock so there was never any marriage certificate to back it up." (Victoria Farrell-Cofield, Genforum "Murdoch Family Genealogy Forum," October 12, 2000)
Is there an substance to this story? Quite simply, no. Titanic's First officer William Murdoch was neither a bigamist nor fathered seven illegitimate children 'out of wedlock' for one very simple reason, and it this rather important document here (click to enlarge):
The above is the legal marriage certificate of "Elizabeth Crogent" to a "William Edward Murdock". Ignoring the different spelling of the name Murdoch, this firstly proves that Elizabeth was indeed legally married - so the claim by descendants of being born 'out of wedlock' can no longer apply. More importantly the "William E. Murdock" she married in 1892 is clearly a different individual entirely from Titanic's first officer, with details such as date of birth and parentage that do not match at all.
What else do we know of this 'William Murdock'? German researcher Petra Feyahn uncovered the following:
"The 1881 Wales Census data lists a midshipman at the age of 14 born about 1867 in Manchester named William E. Murdock and assigned to the Industrial Training School Ship “CLEO”(or “CLIO”) for training at sea. Where on the other hand William McMaster Murdoch in the 1881 Scotland Census is recorded for being a scholar at the age of 8 living at home at 341 High Street Dalbeattie. Scotland Census 1881 was executed 03. April 1881. Wales Census 1881 was executed 03. April 1881." (Petra Feyahn/Germany).
Yes, 'William E Murdock' was a mariner in Liverpool, but other than that the similarities end. The following table shows the clear differences:
Titanic's Willam McMaster Murdoch
Liverpool's Willam Edward Murdock
28 February 1873
Samuel Murdoch - Captain
John Murdoch - Engineer
1888 aged 15 aboard the Charles Cosworth
1881 - aboard Industrial Training School Ship “CLEO”(or “CLIO”)
1907 - Southampton
1892 - Liverpool
But can we be sure that this "William Edward Murdock" from Manchester who married Elizabeth Crogent in Liverpool are the same couple whose descendents refer to as having seven children? Yes we can, as the same source of the marriage certificate - Ancestry.com - also lists their children as:
1893: William E. Murdock
1895: Albert Joseph Murdock
1897: Walter Crogent Murdock
1899: Sydney Frederick Murdock (died 1904)
1901: George Septimus Murdock (died 1901)
1902: Ethel Murdock
1904: James Henry Murdock
1905: Elizabeth Doris Murdock
1909: Frederick Murdock
Nine children, but with two dying very young, we are left with seven. The same number as mentioned by descendents. Ancestry also details that the family lived in Toxteth, Liverpool, at
81 Geraint Street, according to 1899 birth record of their son Sydney Frederick and 1901 Census data.
Clearly this "William Edward Murdock" from Manchester who married Elizabeth Crogent in Liverpool is unconnected to Titanic's First officer. It is easy to see how the confusion could possibly be caused by a similarity in name (although the difference in spelling should be a large clue), living in Liverpool and occupation being a mariner. And notably an enthusiasm to establish a connection after Titanic became big news in the wake of the blockbuster film.
Some other factors to consider:
A Common Name
It is important to note that the name "William Murdoch" along with the alternate spelling of "William Murdock" is quite a common name. Titanic's first officer Murdoch had an uncle by the same name, and even aboard Titanic there was another "William Murdoch" aged 33 (6 years younger) who was a fireman/stoker and unlike the first officer survived the sinking. And not to mention William Murdoch the famous Scottish engineer and inventor. Hence there are many families no doubt now spread around the world and not only in Scotland who have an ancestor who has the same name as Titanic's first officer. But that does not mean they are one in the same person.
According to the "Mother Bedford" website (referenced on the left of this page under the subheading "Elizabeth Crogent and the Muirhead Clan Society Database") it tries to reconcile the Crogent connection by stating that Elizabeth Crogent from Liverpool married William Murdoch after divorcing Ada prior to 1912. However, there is of course no documented evidence to support this theory. Also, if Murdoch allegedly got divorced before 1912 why should Ada joined him on board Titanic on April 8th 1912? In his letter to his sister Peg he mentions Ada even twice and fondly refers to her as “Aid” instead of Ada . So this certainly does not support this theory.
To establish a connection to Titanic's William Murdoch there must be documented evidence to prove the genealogical lineage. This is notably absent in the claims of bigamy or illegitimate children. Although photographic likeness has been claimed despite requests for these photographs none have ever been presented. Conversely we have a verifiable marriage certificate showing that Elizabeth Crogent married a "William E Murdock" and not Titanic's first officer.
Although no specific evidence has ever been found, it has to be acknowledged that it is always possible Titanic's Murdoch did indeed have friendships with other women or even possibly father illegitimate children. During the New York inquiry after the sinking the proceedings were interrupted by a distraught "weeping woman" upon discovering the news of William Murdoch's loss. She was likely named "Miss Harding"and could have been a lover or at least a close friend based on her reaction to the news. And then we have his letter in 1907 to a Miss Nancy a few months prior to his marriage to Ada. So there were quite a few "Miss"s that Will was in contact with that we know about publicly, let alone those we don't know about, so maybe he was quite an amorous Scotsman.
However he most certainly cannot be confused with Manchester's "William Edward Murdock" who married Elizabeth Crogent in Liverpool and fathered seven children. He was clearly a different individual.
History of Claimants
According to a December 2000 on-line article by Catholine Butler (which is no longer available) a certain Victoria Farrell-Cofield of Vancouver went on record as saying she
believes that "my great grandfather, William Murdock was my father's, mother's, father" and that William even looks "so much like my father. They have the same Murdock
ears." She believes that "Murdock" was "held responsible" for the sinking of the Titanic" and due to the shame this caused the family his widow "didn't actually tell the story to the children at the time. It remained a family secret for many years. It wasn't until much later that the family started to discover the details."
Here is the original article, reprinted in full:
Controversy About 'Titanic' First Officer
By CATHOLINE BUTLER
VANCOUVER - Not everyone was thrilled with Hollywood's version of the sinking of the Titanic. Victoria Farrell-Cofield of Vancouver feels the movie did a profound injustice to her great-grandfather, William Murdock, first officer to William Smith, who was captain of the Titanic.
Victoria said, "As everyone knows the Titanic went down off the coast of Newfoundland and at that time it was one of the grandest and largest ships built. My great grandfather, William Murdock was my father's, mother's, father.
"When he went down on the Titanic, he left a wife and seven orphaned children, who went from being a high-society family to poverty overnight and it was very, very sad. Because William Murdock was held responsible for the sinking of the Titanic, there was a lot of shame for the family and they were shunned by society.
"His widow didn't want the shame passed on to the children, so she didn't actually tell the story to the children at the time. It remained a family secret for many years. It wasn't until much later that the family started to discover the details.
"I was amazed to learn that completely unaware of my own interest and research, my family in England was also showing renewed interest and doing their own research on our relative to learn what actually happened on that fateful night.
"When we finally made contact, we found that we were all discovering the same facts. Everyone knew that Murdock was on the Titanic, there were rumors that he was a cook or the chief engineer, but we all knew that he was on board in some capacity.
"Years ago, I went to the Titanic exhibition in the Maritime Museum in Kitsilano and discovered who William Murdock really was. I saw a picture of him. It really shocked me because he looked so much like my father. They have the same Murdock ears.
"My great-grandfather was in charge of the bridge at the time the Titanic headed into unchartered waters on a pitch black night. They were actually warned that they were heading into an ice-field from other boats in the area, but they didn't want to slow down because they were trying to beat the speed record for getting to America.
"This decision not to slow down was made by Captain Smith, not by William Murdock. At the time it was Captain Smith's retirement voyage - it was his final voyage before retirement, and it was supposed to be his crowning glory of achievement.
"The night that the Titanic hit the iceberg, there was a big party going on and Captain Smith could not be aroused from sleep. Apparently, he had celebrated a little too much. He was in charge at the time the ship was steaming forward and hit the iceberg. Actually, they did not see the iceberg until they were on top of it, and then it was too late.
"An iceberg is three-quarters below the water, with only a little bit on top. When they tried to go around it, the Titanic was hit underneath the water, putting a large gash along the whole side of the boat.
"The reason the Titanic sank so fast, is that there was a flaw in the ship. Inside the boat there were supposed to be air-tight chambers, quartered off to hold the water, so that it wouldn't spill over.
"Whether it was due to lack of funding, or putting the money into furnishings and decor, this area was never finished. As a result, when the water rushed in, it spilled over into the next section, and the boat went up in the air and sank within the hour.
"When Director James Cameron released the movie The Titanic, that was when there was a total uproar in the family. Cameron depicted the movie as historically correct but, in fact, he totally defamed William Murdock.
"He portrayed him as a coward, as having taken bribes to allow men into the boats with the women and children and that he supposedly shot people. I do believe that he may have had a gun, but that he fired in into the air to warn men from jumping into the lifeboats on top of the women and children.
"The worst accusation was that in the end, he turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. The family absolutely does not believe this to be true.
"We were so incensed at these accusations that some of the family wrote into a Liverpool newspaper to protest how William Murdock, a well-known hero throughout England and Scotland, had been made to appear as a horrible coward.
"Other relatives living in Dalbeliney, Scotland, where there are monuments and a statue in his honour, tried to file a lawsuit against Titanic director, James Cameron. But they didn't have a lot of money for high-priced lawyers and they were too far away from the Hollywood scene.
"I think an out-of-court settlement was something like a lump sum of $10,000 or $20,000, to be put into a bursary to support further education of students. There is still a lot of hard- feelings within the family about this settlement."
Victoria is resolute and passionate in her quest to have William Murdock's name and reputation cleared. I asked her about future plans and she said, "I would like to see a good, strong family tree and a family reunion.
"Also, obviously, more public knowledge about the fact that a lot of witnesses said William Murdock actually saved many lives. He should have been the captain of the Titanic and portrayed as the true hero that he was. I plan to continue my research and to write a book and, maybe somebody would like to buy the rights, make a movie and get the real truth out about the sinking of the Titanic."
Victoria is the manager of Colour Tech II on West Broadway in Vancouver, a family-owned and operated hairdressing salon specializing in hair colour and colour corrections work. The family is originally from Liverpool, England. Victoria's father, Brian Farrell has Limerick, Ireland roots.
Richard Edkins' Response
Upon discovering this article I forwarded a copy to Richard Edkins, of the Dalbeattie Murdoch website (15 April, 2003), to see what he thought of it. His conclusions are similar to mine and can be summarised thus:
1. Ada and William never had any children. Edkins -"it was the greatest regret of her life, right up to the day of her death."
2. Article contains many inaccuracies -foremost being the incorrect spelling of "Murdock". Additionally, William has no statue in Dalbeattie, only a plaque.
The sum of money was £ 5,000. It was not an out-of-court settlement. There is no evidence to suggest that Captain Smith had been drunk at a party prior to
the collision. Only one-tenth of an iceberg shows above the water. Titanic was not 'gashed' open; the best assessment is that the collision sheared brittle
rivets and opened up a line of major leaks, or the ship would have sunk within 20 minutes. Watertight bulkheads are NOT airtight compartments.
3. Is the mystery of the "weeping woman" may be connected (please refer to The Weeping Woman). Richard Edkins wrote to me about this:
"You will understand that I have investigated reports that William had other wives (or affairs) and have found nothing worth the candle. This is
regrettable, in a way, but I have wondered whether the hard-drinking, heavy-smoking life of many merchant seamen may have inhibited fertility
"Unfortunately I and another researcher have stumbled across cases where somebody has chosen to 'vanish' conveniently at the time of the Titanic's loss. One
was a Murdoch whose marriage-dates were when William was too young and out on a six-month voyage, which rather put paid to that little tale. You will
understand that major losses of life were convenient to many women who could claim 'widowhood' when in fact they had been abandoned. Georgette Heyer wove such
a convenience into one of her stories, when a missing 'husband' was claimed to have died - conveniently, egad - at Waterloo."
Geneaology and Reincarnation
After the article ran in 2000, there were several enquiries on geneaology forums by Victoria Farrell-Cofield, in attempts to 'back her theory'. For
example on the Genforum "Murdoch Family Genealogy Forum" on October 12, 2000 she wrote:
"I am searching for any information anyone may have on the family history of William Murdoch. The William Murdoch was known by word of mouth
through my family that he went down on the Titanic and left behind a widow and seven children. I have discovered that the William Murdoch, First Officer,
Titanic married an older woman named Ada and never had any children, according to record. I am lead to believe that Murdoch may have had these children out of
wedlock. The other possibilty is there was rumour of another Murdoch of the Merseyside area in Liverpool whom had several children.I am in the process of looking for
birth and death certificates to prove who's who. But it is the family legacy that he did go down on the Titanic and I don't think it is a
A Keith Murdoch replied, April 09, 2001, saying that in 1994 he travelled through Glasgow and "a customs official noticed our name, introduced herself and
stated that she was a Murdoch and that her grandfather was the first officer of the Titanic. Unfortunately we did not record her name, but we have no question
about her sincerity. Hence, there must have been offspring. We left on Icelandair Flt 285 at 4:35PM from Glasgow for Reykjavik. Perhaps there is a record of
the duty roster, though its a long shot. I also have a magazine article about William and an attempt to clear his name."
She posted once again, on the same forum, on February 10, 2002:
"I have talked to members of my family in Liverpool England, and they have drawn the same information which I have in regard to William
Murdoch, whom went down with the Titanic in 1912. He was married to a woman named Ada in which he had no children with. But being stationed out of Liverpool he
went on to have seven children with an Elizabeth Crogent of Liverpool. Unfortunatley the children were out of wedlock so there was never any marriage
certificate to back it up. But all of the children have taken the Murdoch name. This would explain the "mystery woman" who burst into and disturbed the
congressional hearings after the sinking, in which he was blamed at the time and held accountable. My father has the Murdoch name on his birth certificate with
the correct spelling. I have yet to find any more substantial evidence to back my theory , if anyone out there has any information would you please let me
know. Thanks." (Source)
There is a reply from a Tammy Saphiloffon May 31, 2003 who said that "there's a woman, her username is: MayRose on the Titanic-Titanic! Forum, claiming to
being a reincarnation of a Mary McAllister...the distraught New York woman who burst in on the Titanic Hearings, only to being escorted out by CH Lightoller.
And another Ti-Ti! Forum poster's username, ScotSailor, claiming to being First Officer William McMaster Murdoch's reincarnation. His name is, William Stewart,
claims that she was his girlfriend. So, Elizabeth Crogent actually is her name, not Mary McAllister, an Irish woman, living in New York, who was around 21/22
at the time of the hearings."
TDTSC RMS Titanic Forum
Victoria Farrell also made an appearance on the TDTSC (Tom Dyer's Titanic Site Community) RMS Titanic Forum.
This forum seems to be inhabited by those who blur the lines between roleplaying and sincerely believing they are the reincarnations of Second Officer
Lightoller, First Officer William Murdoch, and in the case of a woman named Tammy, Ada Murdoch (username MurdochsAid). They seemed to be primarly US based.
On Sep 21 2006, Victoria Farrell posted the following:
"I am the great-great grandaughter of William Murdoch. I was interviewed for the artical several years ago regarding my William Murdoch and
my family link to him. Yes I do believe that he lead a secret life with my grand Mother Elizabeth Crogent. Murdoch fathered many children with her. Including
my great grandmother, my Father's, Mother. Yes my father hold a stricking resemblance to William, he has very similar features, especially the ears. I stumlbed
across this link this morning when my 12 year old son googled Murdoch in curiousity. I know it was a few years ago that this link was written but I hope that
someone still finds an interest in it."(Source)
Later the next day, in response to a request for a photograph, she followed this up with more detail:
"Sorry, I checked my files and I don't have a recent electronic pic of my father. I will in the next day or so download one for you to see the resemblance.
Elizabeth Crogent, had a very difficult time raising 7 children on her own. Sadly one of them was blind. After Murdoch past away they went to rags- and were
help by the orginal Booth family. They lived in Liverpool, England.
Well, from those 7 children came a very large family who all believe that they are the geat and great-great grandchildren of Murdoch. My grandmother (Dolly)
had 8 of her own children (my Father's Mother) and they went on to have many children of there own. My uncle Patrick ,who lives in Liverpool, has done research
of his own and he came up with the same conclusions that I have.
The truth was hidden from our family for many years. We knew that he went down on the Titanic, this was passed from generation to generation. But no one knew
to what extent he played a role. It was not until the last generation that we started to question it.
I believe that it was hushed and quieted due to the fact because there was an embarrassment; due to the fact that, in that day and age "Illegitimate" children
were not recognized and were kept quiet.
Although it must have been appealing to Murdoch that his wife by marriage (Aida) was not capable of concieving, and the fact that Elizabeth was extremely
He kept her and the family in Liverpool, which was a major port in it's day and I believe he spent alot of time there. He must have kept it quiet; that is what
was done in that day and age. Particularly that he was in such a position of power; he would have wanted to uphold his Integrity.
In any event; I believe that he fathered these children. Even on my grandmothers birth certificate the father's name is "Unknown".
Also in the Congressional hearings there is evidence that a "Mystery Wwoman" burst into the court room during Murdoch's hearing. She was hysterical and was
refused to be heard- she was dragged out. She was recorded in the court hearing documentation.
I believe that this mystery woman is Elizabeth. And I believe that she was refused to be heard in order to "save face" in his memory.
Unfortunatly this lead to a life of difficulty and poverty to Elizabeth and her family. When I think of the family I can't help but think of the book "Angela's
if any of you have read it. About the very poor english family that endured unbearable hardships."
More recently a "Aaron Noone" has appeared on the forum, claiming to be the great-great-great grandson of Murdoch and in contact with Victoria Farrell.
On May 31, 2011 he posted the following:
"I am an English relative of Victoria Farrell.
We have never met and my family are all from Liverpool, England and it is the common 'pass-me-down' truth, that First Officer, William Murdoch, was our gt gt
gt grandfather. My fathers, mothers mother was the daughter of William Murdoch - queeny. Dolly was her sister.
We were previously due to be interviewed by GMTV (popular morning television programme in the UK) in 1997 when the film came out and there was a lot of hype
surrounding the myth that he commited suicide. Upon investigation it became apparant that William Murdoch is somewhat of a hero in his home town. Even having
the local school named after him. The question was raised "do you shatter an illusion ro keep it to uphold its values?"
I personally do not feel that question is justified. William Murdoch, like most sailors of the day was stationed in the major port towns of Liverpool,
Southampton or Belfast. Spending months even years away from his spouse would be enough to send any person in the direction of love elsewhere.
Dolly and Queeny (his daughters) had funds sent from America each month to pay for their eduction in the hope they would be English educated to a high
standard and take those skills to America. Unfortunately War broke out and the money was used to feed the family. My understanding was it was approximately one
Scott Murdcoh, nephew - Williams nearest surviving direct descendant - refuted the very notion that his uncle fathered a family and merley thought we would
make some claim to the several hundreds of thousands of pounds Golden Globe were forced to pay for defamation of character.
We would never lay claim to this. The family is also so vast we would only get a few pennies each.
I lost contact with Victoria a couple of years ago but now we have found each other again and swapped contact details - i am hoping to help raise awareness of
our story..and... with some luck... a family reunion!"
Please note that original spelling errors and factual inaccuracies have been kept for the above forum postings.
Any further details, corrections or clarifications please contact me here.