Did Murdoch shoot himself?


Inger Sheil

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I think James must be referring to the campaign for an apology run at the time of the Cameron movie's release.

The studio execs (not Cameron) finally issued a statement in Dalbeattie that no offense had been intended to the family of William Murdoch, and a presentation cheque for the Murdoch Memorial Fund was handed over. There was no apology as such, although some sections of the media interpreted it and reported it that way.

Based on the nature of the material regarding this alleged incident, it would be very difficult for anyone to either prove or disprove the identity or actions of any individual purported to have been involved. Eugene Daly, for example, did not name a specific officer in the incident he described.

James, if you're interested in learning more about what material is available on this subject, I suggest that you check out Bill Wormstedt's excellent site - he's been collecting reports for a few years now, and I'd venture to say there's no more comprehensive collation of the material relating to it either on or off line.
 
Dec 7, 2000
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Inger,

Daniel Parks, a while back I remember wrote something about the suicide incident. I have not heard of or from Daniel for over a year. I never got to see his work though, so I have no idea whether it is more or less comprehensive than what Bill has put together. If anyone has read this or can comment, or Daniel if you're still around, please give us a shout!

Ing, I sent you an e-mail to you hotmail account (the one I pulled off ET). I hope you get it.

Regards,

Daniel.
 

Inger Sheil

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G'day Daniel -

Was this the chap from New Zealand? Very pleasant bloke - I corresponded with him for a while, and he had some intriguing ideas. I didn't see his work either, and would be interested in knowing if he ever published or intends to publish.

I've responded to your email from my BT account
happy.gif
Let me know either here or on hotmail if you dont' receive it.

~ Ing
 
Dec 6, 2000
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I did receive some e-mail from somebody in NZ, a year or so ago. He was offered some data I didn't have, if I recall correctly.
 
R

Richard Coplen

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Should any of you have read the article on Eugene Daly witnessing an officer shooting two men and then himself in last month's Irish Titanic Historical Society Journal, then you will soon be of the opinion that it did happen. The argument put forward was very convincing and has left no doubt in my mind that it did indeed happen.
 

Inger Sheil

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LoL! I've read the magazine, Richard (I also have an article published in the same issue of the White Star Journal) I found the piece extremely interesting, as were Senan's editorial observations on the nature of Daly's later statements to his family that he had witnessed a suicide. However, I still can't regard this as definitive, as it's a secondhand source recorded many years after the events Daly recalled. I'm not suggesting for a moment that either Daly or his family were lying (I don't believe they were), but memories and observations recalled after a long period has lapsed are notoriously unreliable. I regard the article as a very valuable contribution to the debate, but not conclusive evidence a suicide took place. Regretably, nothing in this account from Daly's family assists us in identifying the officer in question.

Senan has turned up some more interesting and perhaps very telling evidence on the question of an officer suicide, but it's for him to divulge this material in future issues of the WSJ!
 
Feb 21, 2003
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Hey Ing! Please *do* share this new information with us, b/c I...as you already know, am extremely interested in *all* things pertaining to Will Murdoch.
 

Inger Sheil

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It is recorded in a 1912 source that Wilde reportedly, prior to the disaster, made the following statement in connection with his late wife: 'he didn't care particularly how he went or how soon he joined her.'

While hardly definitive, it possibly sheds new light on the mental/emotional state of one of the officers who did not survive.

However, I remain to be convinced that one of the officers did kill himself, and I don't think it's wise to elevate one candidate above the others based on the evidence extant (particularly when, as in the recent case of James Moody, the arguments are based on ignorance regarding the individual in question, and a deeply flawed and/or controversial interpretation of what material there is).
 
Nov 30, 2000
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William Murdoch, thanks to Hollywood, now can shake hands with Davy Crockett (soon to be on screen again for the umpteenth time. Billy Bob Thornton looks good, but I digress!) as being a historical figure who's end has sparked much emotional debate.
To me, if you are going to dramatize something, you must be at least 20% certain about the possibilities, based on all evidence, no matter how flawed or incomplete.
Murdoch's end, unlike Crockett's, falls past the 20% mark.
Three things come to mind:

We have no PHYSICAL DESCRIPTIONS of the officer mentioned in the various suicde accounts to match with Murdoch's.

One of the witnesses, George Rheims', I believe, was NOT near Collapsbile A before the ship sank, and so whoever he did see, it was not Murdoch. (This conclusion is based on careful study of both translations of his famous letter to his wife, with his newspaper account also consulted.)

Many of the suicide accounts are contained in newspaper articles, which ALWAYS must be taken with a grain of salt (which is the case even today).

Based on all this, it is NOT advisiable to dramatically depict at least Murdoch - if not him and the other officers that died that night -
as comitting suicide. It is an enigma best left to historical discussion and debate.

Richard
 

Inger Sheil

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Hallo Richard -

I've just re-read Rheims, and am curious as to where you believe Rheims was when this incident purportedly took place and why? I have an idea what passages you're highlighting with your post and possible interpretations (particularly with the New York Herald article), but I want to see if I'm anticipating your arguments correctly.

There's certainly a lot of room for discussion on the accounts reporting a suicide! It's a pity that some recent entries into the debate, published elsewhere, have displayed a lack of research into the candidates proposed for the 'suicidal officer'.
 
Feb 21, 2003
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Hi Richard!

I'm with Inger on this one, because I too, am greatly interested in learning more about this incident for which you are discussing.

Just who was the 'suicidal officer', if not Will Murdoch?
 
Nov 30, 2000
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Hi Inger! Hi Tammy!
Regarding Rheims, after studying both translations of his letter (one available on E-T, the other on Bill Wormstedt's site), I came away more puzzled than enligthened.
According to his letter, Rheim's said he saw an officer shoot himself, say goodbye, and then turn the weapon on himself.
Fine and good, but Rheim's seems to say the boat was being LOWERED away. Even the most obtuse landlubber would not mistake a lifeboat being washed off the deck (as A was), especially a lifeboat sitting in the middle of the boat deck being made fast to the davits with the falls because the ship is listing to port just enough to prevent it from going all the way up the deck (this tibit comes direct from both Steward Edward Brown and Barber August Weikman, IRC), would they not?
Still, it is true that collapsible A was crowded, and Rheim's told the New York Herald that the boat the shooting and suicide took place was crowded.
Going back to his letter, if Rheim's next described events that match what happened at A - to wit, a wave of water coming up the deck and washing many overboard - it would seem to indicate that he was indeed near A along with his good friend Joe Loring.
But...
Rheims describes nothing of the sort!
He apparently had plenty of time after seeing the shooting and suicide to talk with Joe, run to his cabin to get a photograph portrait of them both, rejoin Loring, disrobe to their undergarments for swimming (this nugget is in the translation of the letter on Wormstedt's site), survive an "explosion" and getting thrown to the deck and being entangled in deck chairs and ropes, free himself, then talk quickly with Joe in which Rheims' tells Loring it is best to jump from where they are and not go aft, and then they finally abandon the Titanic.
Now, how could Rheims have seen Murdoch at A,
seen Murdoch shoot a passenger, then himself, then do all the above with Loring up to being
thrown to the deck by “an explosion”￾, then, after a final confer with Loring, dived off the Titanic in such a short space of time? And how could he and Joe Loring have made it away from A, avoided the wave, survived the “explosion”￾, and jumped?
They could not possibly have fought their way through the steerage crowd on the boat deck at that point in the sinking if they were at A, especially to have gotten to a dry point to jump from, unless they had been football pros and bowled their way through the crowd (an absurdity).
Not only that, but the wave that came up when the final plunge began swept off the boat deck virtually everyone who was there before the final dive began (sans Colonel Gracie, who went with it and hung on to a railing on the officer's quarters), and Rheims mentions nothing about him and Loring dealing with a wave of water during their time on the ship as she sank (Rheim's mentions no water associated with the mysterious "explosion" he encountered nor dealing with water coming onto the deck where he and Loring was before they jumped.)
The answer to the above, then, to me, is simple: Rheims and Loring had made their way aft before the final plunge began. Where I cannot really say, but they made it to someplace they could jump from the Titanic high and dry from.
Thus, whatever Rheims said he saw was something he personally did not witness at Collapsible A.
How does this relate to the other witnesses? At the moment, I cannot say, but it is interiguing.
Comments?
Thanks!

Richard
 

Inger Sheil

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Thanks for that response, Richard - I think it highlights very well some of the confusions and contradictions we find in passenger accounts, and particularly those referring to an officer's suicide.

Looking at the Rustie Brown translation first, Rheims states - apparently specifically - that it was at 'the last boat.'

The time lapse indicated by him ducking down to get the photo and his conversation with Joe is interesting - judging from this passage, he seems to have been back on deck shortly before the final plunge:

quote:

I then left him for one minute to go back to my cabin and find our photograph, then went up to join Joe on the deck. We then undressed, keeping on only our underwear. I did not lose one second of composure and had decided to jump overboard to save myself by swimming. I can not describe the unbelievable things I saw at that moment. Suddenly the ship started nosediving and I was thrown to the deck by an explosion. I found myself entangled in chairs and ropes. I was able to free myself. Joe wanted to go back in the rear of the ship. I told him it would mean death and that he should follow me. He told me that he could not swim well enough. Then I took my momentum and jumped overboard. The fall seemed endless, then suddenly icy cold and a long plunge down into the ocean.
While the 'one minute' cannot be literal, Rheims obviously intended to indicate a very brief period of time. Even if the shooting took place early during the attempts to load A and Rheims did not stay there until the moment when it was swept off the deck, the conversation and foray to his cabin indicate it couldn't have been A.

Alternatively, perhaps we're wrong in assuming that the events in the paragraph commencing 'We were about 1,500 people left on board without any means of escape' follow directly on from the previous paragraph, describing the suicide? We assume that they are sequential, but that is not necessarily the case. If he had witnessed a shooting, the horror might be enough to lift the event out of the narrative sequence.

He specifically states he did not go aft at the end, although it's interesting that he emphasises how long the drop to the water seemed (of course, even a few feet might seem eternal in those circumstances). After hitting the water and swimming away from the ship there still seems to have been a substantial body of the vessel above the water - he describes the passengers pressed against the railings and the screams as it went 'straight down'.

There's considerable confusion in trying to reconcile all these accounts - and many people who claim to have seen something they were in no position to see. Which makes one wonder how much was actual eyewitness reporting and how much was hearsay and possible confusion stemming from the fact that shots were fired...although whether anyone was in the way of them is another issue.​
 
Nov 30, 2000
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Hi Inger!
Thanks for the input. Any idea as to what Rheim's said at the Limitation Of Liability hearings in 1915? Perhaps his testimony there might clear up points in his letter and newspaper statement.
Thanks again!

Richard
 
Feb 21, 2003
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Will shared his last moment with me in a dream, as he laid on his back on the starboard boat deck, dying after he shot himself. I saw what he saw through his eyes, as those whom had already died of hyperthermia in the water, ascending upwards towards the heavens...for what seemed forever. Then we heard someone yell, 'Don't look at him!!!' After that, things went black.

The actor who played him in Walter Lord's A Night To Remember, was more exact then Ewan Stewart's portrayal of how Will actually died.

The point is, Will in his own way, was telling me that he did indeed commit suicide that terrible morning of April 15th, 1912.
 

Inger Sheil

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I don't think Murdoch's death is depicted at all in ANTR.

Funnily enough, I know a couple of other people who claim to be in contact with the spirit of William Murdoch...and he's given them contradictory messages about the manner of his death! (The problems with eyewitness accounts don't cease beyond the grave, it would seem).
 

matthew ewing

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the one thing i can't find proof of is this, did the Titanic officer Will Murdoch actually shoot himself as shown in the movie? I know a lot on this ship, but still want to know more.
 

Inger Sheil

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Matthew, I've moved your post here. This is just one of several threads in which this topic has been discussed before on the board.

It is advisable to do a search before you post a new thread on a subject.
 

Samuel Liu

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Dec 10, 2005
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hey all,
do any of u guys believe 1st officer Murdoch was the one who commited suicide by shooting himself? i obviously know that he didn't survive the disaster. in the movie, he was seen shooting himself after shooting a passenger who fought with him. officer Lowe took over after he shot himself.

God bless 1st officer Murdoch!!!!!!
 

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