William McMurray was born in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England over the summer months of 1868 and he was baptised on 9 August in Holy Trinity Church. He was the son of an Irish father, Henry McMurray (1839-1903) and a Scottish mother, Isabella Oswald (b. 1835). His Belfast-born father came to England, possibly in the 1850s and was married to Kirkcaldy, Fife-native Isabella Oswald in Liverpool on 14 June 1858.
William had six known siblings: Henry (b. 1861), Robert (b. 1863), David (b. 1866), Isabella (b. 1870), Eliza (b. 1873) and Robert (b. 1877).
William first appears on the 1871 census whilst living with his family at 33 Lord Street, Birkenhead and would still be present at this address by the time of the 1881 census. When the 1891 census was conducted William was absent from home and apparently already at sea. His family were then living at 17 Elgin Street, Birkenhead and would still be listed here on the 1901 census, with William again absent.
William was married in West Derby on 17 April 1902 to Clara Jones (b. 1877 in Oswestry, Shropshire). The couple settled in Liverpool and went on to have three children: Mary "May" Louisa (b. 1902), Ivy Isabella (b. 1905) and William Ernest (b. 1909). William would again miss the next snapshot of Britain when the 1911 census was taken; his family were then listed at 60 Empress Road, Kensington, Liverpool.
Reportedly an esteemed employee of the White Star Line, William was on board the Titanic for her delivery trip from Belfast to Southampton. When he signed-on again, in Southampton, on 4 April 1912, he gave his address as 60 Empress Terrace, (Liverpool). His last ship had been the Celtic. As a bedroom steward he received monthly wages of £3, 15s.
His daughter May penned him a letter dated 13/4/1912 and posted it to Southampton. It was returned to the family and undelivered.
60 Empress Road
It seems ages since I last seen you. I wish we where in Southampton with you it is very lonely without you Dear Father I have not been so very well I have had a a [sic] bad throat hoping I will soon get better for Mama worries so much little Ernie as not been so well but he has got better now hoping you are keeping well dada so ta love from Ivy and and [sic] Ernie thank dada for the presents love from all dada hoping to see you soon with love from Ivy and May and Ernie xxxxxxxxxx kisses for dada x
Dada this is my first letter
William died in the sinking. His body, if recovered, was never identified.
His wife Clara never remarried and died from leukaemia, aged 37 in 1915. Both his daughters married and remained in Liverpool; May died in 1985 and Ivy in 1987. His son was aboard the Laconia when she was torpedoed in 1942 and survived. He died near Liverpool in 1976.
References and Sources
Agreement and Account of Crew (PRO London, BT100/259)
Particulars of Engagement (Belfast), Ulster Folk and Transport Museum (TRANS 2A/45 381)
Gavin Bell, UK
Alan McMurray, UK
Articles and Stories
Ormskirk Advertiser (1912)