Clean-shaven McQuillan, the mystery blade-donor?

(William McQuillan, from a family photo)

AT THE START of Chapter 5 in Walter Lord's A Night To Remember, the author writes:

"As No. 2 prepared to cast off at 1.45, Steward Johnson, his pockets bulging with oranges, yelled up to the boat deck for a razor to cut the falls. Seaman McAuliffe dropped one down, calling, 'Remember me at Southampton and give it back to me!' McAuliffe was probably the last man on the Titanic so sure of returning to Southampton."

This extract is emblematic of Lord's preference for embroidering the facts, or making careless mistakes. There was no seaman named McAuliffe on the Titanic. In fact there was no crewman or passenger by that name, as a routine check would have revealed.

There was a  Night Watchman named James Johnson, and he told this story to the British Inquiry:

Q 3445. Could you explain how the boat [#2] came to be filled with people?

Johnson — "I got to the forward fall. I had asked one of the firemen - I do not know whether fireman or trimmer - 'Have you a knife? There is no knife in the boat.' I had looked at the fall because anybody lowering the fall with a jerk might shove it off the blocks.  I thought I must have a knife if nobody else had one. I asked the man and he handed me a razor. He told me his name was McCuliffe. He said, 'Remember me at Southampton, and give it me back.'”

The name is given in the transcript as McCuliffe. Johson spoke to him while both were on deck, so there was no "yelling up" or "dropping down" involved. The man named in the transcript as McCuliffe simply handed it over, with a brief  remark - which Lord could not accurately render either.

There is no McCuliffe anywhere on the manifest. But Johnson was specific that the man involved was a stoker or trimmer, even though Walter Lord re-invented him as a seaman or AB.

The only soundalike name for the stokehold is William McQuillan.  

Interestingly, McQuillan's body was recovered (No. 183). Among his effects were a shaving brush and a shaving stick, described as 'soap' in the Coroner's records.

The vital part of this shaving kit was missing - the razor.

This coincidence seems too great. It would seem to place the last sighting of William McQuillan as being all the way forward on the port side of the boat deck, half an hour before the sinking.

Related Biographies:

William McQuillan


Senan Molony


Encyclopedia Titanica (2006) Clean-shaven McQuillan, the mystery blade-donor? ( ref: #5378, published 13 November 2006, generated 16th April 2021 04:26:18 PM); URL :