MurdochSan Francisco Books and Writers


Dec 2, 2000
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I have had a keen interest in learning more about William Murdoch. Actually his family fascinates me. I feel that he was a forward thinker in many ways. I want to know more about the books he read and the writers he knew. Was Conrad the only one? or were there others? What ships brought generations of Murdochs to the US and why did the San Francisco/Oakland area capture their hearts and imaginations...that even one of the family homes was named for this town.

Are there any good books to read or sources to access to find out more about this man and his family?

The family seemed to be so close, but it seems that they made even a larger extended family. My Dad was stationed in Australia during WWII and a family there befriended him. He has kept close with this family until all had passed on. But one thing I learned that military men and men at sea often find these homes away from homoe and when they do, they often pratice this same thing in their own home.

I have this image of a house that was open 24x7 for everyone that there were no strangers in the Murdoch household. A family of a lot of joy, warmth and peace.
Any one out there know this stuff?
Maureen.
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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This is one for Ilya to answer, but goodness knows when he'll next get back to the keyboard (and I know it's one that he wants to give his full attention to, so he might save a response for when he can sit down and write it carefully - he never writes such things in haste).

San Francisco dominated the imagination of most sailors of that era. Masefield wrote of young men waiting to go to sea in Liverpool who watched the ships leaving bound for famed 'Frisco...of the dangers there that awaited the young sailor...but also of the natural beauty of the place and its importance as a gateway to the West of the USA. One of the Titanic's officers wrote a story about crimping that was set in South America, but spoke first of all about the notorious dangers of SF. He would later also declare Sydney Harbour the second most beautiful harbour in the world, with SF being the first (I'd quibble with him there, but hey...). Lightoller also gives a good idea of what this port meant to seaman of the sail era.

It was not just a sailortown, it was in many ways the Sailortown. It had a tremendous part to play in their songs, stories, ideas. And of course I've got a soft spot for it, because dear old Oskar Peddersen got crimped there last century and the result is my Swedish first name ;-)

As Captain Samuel Murdoch had been sailing there for some time, it seems natural that the family had ties with the port. Ilya will fill in the fascinating background there.

As for books on Murdoch and his family - Susanne Stormer's 'Good-Bye, Good Luck' is the major work to date, but was printed with a very limited run and, so far as I know, there are no plans for another edition (one could always hope, though!). Susanne has written some fascinating works in German about the Titanic, and this was her first title in English. She has spent quite a lot of time in Dalbeattie and Kippford, as well as throughout England, and her work is very thorough and remarkable considering the limitations of the material.

Elizabeth Gibbons also wrote a monograph on Murdoch titled 'To the Bitter End' which is an absolutely elegant work. Some people find her style off-putting (she has a classical mottif threading through the work, which resonates with the themes of both heroism and hubris - I thought it hauntingly powerful). There has been some talk about reprinting this work, but I don't know where that stands.

You're right about finding homes away from home - one young later-to-be-Titanic officer had a special affection for Newcastle in NSW, Australia - thinking more of it than both New York and Sydney, both of which he had visited. I have family in Newcastle, and couldn't imagine why he thought so much of it. The answer was simple - a family there had taken the teenager in and had looked after him, and it was that which made the port so marvelous in his eyes (although he insisted it had no right to call itself a 'city' and build a big cathedral ;-) )

Ing
 
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Dec 2, 2000
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Wow, this was wonderful Ing. Thanks. I can't wait for stuff from the O.M. Ilya!

The two books are on my list to find. I love the weaving you speak of in Elizabeth's book. I look forward very much to reading it.

Enjoyed the Cathedral-City thingy as well.
Thanks.
Maureen.
 

Inger Sheil

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I just wished he'd mentioned their names - my heart went out to those long-ago Australians who took in a young man who wasn't much more than a boy on his first voyage away from home, treating him as one of the family. I'm glad to say others did the same in Sydney and NY (where he formed one lifelong friendship that - had matters taken a slightly different turn - might have saved him from boarding the Titanic), but not quite to the same degree. Lightoller had a similar experience in Oz during his first visit there - but we're a seafaring nation (or were back then), and we knew, understood, and were rather fond of seamen and sailors. Still are, as American Navy ships coming into Sydney have found (okay, we feed them guff about Killer Koalas and such, but it's done with affection).

Stormer's book is an invaluable reference, and Gibbon's prose has just that touch of visceral richness that appeals to me stylistically. I first read it up in Dalbeattie, and found myself reading some of the passages aloud to my fellow researcher.

But wait until you hear Ilya write about San Francisco and Oatlands - I was there with him at the begining of September, and as we travelled around he was able to share with me so much of the areas maritime history...the places that these men would have known in the days of sail.

Regards,

Ing
 
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So Tony Bennett wasn't lying about how he left his heart in San Francisco then I guess?

I don;t know about this Ing. My dad always told us that Australia had the best looking women there...I personally think that is why all of these guys go to Australia but they can't tell their moms that so they lie about it and say yeah mom, I was in San Francisco at the time. making the statistics skewed
happy.gif
happy.gif
....what do you think? he he
Maureen.
 

Inger Sheil

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Lol! Given the tendency for WSL officers to marry Australians and New Zealanders, perhaps there's something in that.

:)

Ing
 
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I think we had best research this. I think that Ilya will be honest, but some of these others...I don't know it may take a bit more work.
happy.gif

Maureen.
 
J

James Eldridge

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Hello Ladies,

I couldn't resist posting here since as a young sailor from New York I made my first shore leave in San Francisco and became a hostage to the place ever since. I married a young lady and made it my home. It was magic the first time my ship entered the Bay there was some kind of maritime event happening and all the tall ships were fully dressed in flags and girls threw flowers from the Golden Gate Bridge onto our decks as we sailed under it. Sailors in the uniforms of many nations crowded the streets and parks while total strangers invited us for drinks and sightseeing. Thanks for reviving a fine memory and sorry if I barged in with a sentimental tale.

Eldridge
 

Inger Sheil

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Not at all, Eldrige (or should that be James :) ). Thank you for sharing a lovely memory! I have always had warm memories of a childhood partially spent in NY, and from when I first visited San Francisco in 1983. I tremendously enjoyed being back there last week. We were able to catch the ferry from Vallejo to SF, and I will remember for the rest of my life that amazing fog bank right outside the Golden Gate Bridge - like a white wall. It was a maritime heritage week turing my visit, so we were down among some of the heritage vessels.

SF is Sydney's sister city, and the two seem to have much in common in terms of climate and atmosphere. Not so many fogs in Sydney, though.

All the best,

Inger
 
J

James Eldridge

Guest
Hi Ladies,

Thanks! The next time your coming here let me know we could have crossed the bay on the Corinthian my little boat. Did you visit the Maritime Museum near Fishermans's Wharf while here? I always enjoy it when I go there's also a pirate ship that runs weekend cruises on the Bay. Its a three masted sailing vessel complete with pirate crew and cannons. If you go to Sausalito stop at the Spinaker its a restaurant with the best view of the Bay in the area.

My wife and I like Murdoch because he let men and their wives into his boats and we always imagine that we would have been sitting next to the Duff-Gordons that night. I don't believe he shot himself, something about the feel I get when I look at his picture tells me that suicide wouldn't be his style and over the years in business my sixth sense about people have made me very fortunate in knowing how to deal with them. People always seem to confide themselves to me too for no apparent reason it must be something like a gift that I'm blessed with.

Oakland recently tore down many old Victorian homes to make way for the new Cypress freeway to replace the one toppled in the 1989 earthquake perhaps Murdoch's family had some connection with one of them. They were located near the old Port of Oakland. I happen to know the mayor and several of his staff researchers that worked on the project and I know that before demolition and ground breaking teams of archaelogists from UCB poured over the site and recovered as much of the past as they could and searched the public records to find out the owners of the properties. I would imagine that there is a report somewhere that sums all their work up I ask around and see if I can locate it.

Eldridge
 
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I. M. McVey

Guest
Hallo, Maureen, and Mr Eldridge,

Apologies for taking so long to reply to this thread, it has been a =week=!

I hardly know where to begin, as I do remember an earlier conversation between Maureen and someone else about the Murdochs and Oakland. Wanted to respond then, but time constraints had me by the stern.

Maureen, you asked lots of very cool questions, some of which I know the answers to, and others which we do not know. Guess I'll just sort of put up the basics and we can go from there.

Firstly, neither William nor his father ever actually lived in Oakland, but Captain Murdoch did come to Oakland in his sailing ships with regularity. William M may have been in Oakland or San Francisco at least once, when he was in sail.

Captain Samuel Murdoch had a home in Dalbeattie, Oakland Cottage, which he had built in the High Street at the South end of the village. He was supposed to have also owned a small house in Liverpool, which was intended to give his family a place to come and stay when his ships were in port. (William may have given this as an address during one of his examinations, but we haven't seen any of the deeds to the houses to verify Captain Murdoch's ownership, or to pinpoint with exactitude =the= house, though there's a good guess at one.)

Anyway, back to Oakland. (I am burbling and I know it!) Whilst Captain Murdoch never lived in Oakland, he did love the place, and was apparently well-liked there. He was exclusively in sail and, in those days, a Master in sail was not only well-respected, he was considered great 'Social' material. As a result, Captain Murdoch was probably invited to a great many homes in Oakland when his ship arrived, which would be the major way he got to be known and respected there.

He was not the only one to name a home in the Dalbeattie area after a well-loved port. Another relative built 'Brooklyn Cottage' in Kippford, Dalbeattie, which still stands today.

So, searching house deeds of Oakland will not yield any information, but you might enjoy finding old photographs of the city from 1850-70 to see what it was that Captain Murdoch liked so much. It is ironic that, in that time period, Oakland was respectable, and San Francisco had a terrible reputation, as a haven of Sin and Vice and as a very dangerous place for seamen, as your likelyhood of getting crimped (Shanghai'd) was excellent

Now, this is a wee stretch, but in the 19th Century, Captain Murdoch arrived and departed this port. In the very late 20th century, another relative moved to Oakland for a few years to be closer to his ships, and stopped working that port in August of the year 2000, so, =technically= there has been a Murdoch in and out of that port in the last three centuries! It's a real stretch of a technicality, I know, but still makes me grin!

So there we have our start, and hope this answers a few questions!

Kindest regards, Ilya
 
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Wow, 3 centuries just past in that telling of history. But it was well worth every second. Thanks for your valuable time Ilya. I know that you are very busy. 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. That could be a book in and of itself. With Inger as a great historian, you two could write books into a fourth century with all the material you two could combine. This is so exciting.

It is also interesting to read the truth about a person and compare to stories we read about the same person by folks who don;t know that person.

Thanks Ilya and have a great day. Stay safe.
Maureen.
 

Inger Sheil

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Considering the name itself in the original form means 'Mariner' or 'Seafarer' (and I'm not going to attempt to spell it in Gaelic, and am too lazy to look it up), it's safe to say it's been a long time! They were descended from Vikings, who were of course a seafaring race. The Murdochs hailed from the Isle of Skye (from memory), and can trace back a seafaring lineage for generations. Just how strong these seafaring links were was brought home to me when visiting the cemetary in Dalbeattie, where the headstones of so many Murdochs bore indications of their strong ties with the maritime industry.

This is in contrast to, say, the Lowes, who were originally farmers and then jewellers and watchmakers (although the family tree does reveal one sea captain). It wasn't until Lowe's generation that he and two of his brothers took to the sea as a profession (to the resistance of their father, who lost one son to drowning in his teens and who would later lose another, a crewman in steam).

The Moodys had only the most tenuous of links with the sea (James Moody's great uncle held a maritime related post among many others), but the Boxhalls had a strong maritime tradition, and Lightoller had a relative in sail.

Ilya and I have done some collaboration together, Maureen :) We've trundled the streets of Liverpool, Dalbeattie and S'ton. Such is my respect for him as a researcher that, along with my colleague, Kerri, he is the first person to learn of any new developments. Which means he has recieved some odd phone calls from remote places all over the UK and at all hours of the day or night...('I'm at the train station, Ilya, and I've just done the interview/transcribed the material/photographed the documetns etc...'). He offers an invaluable perspective as a researcher and mariner, and also the tremenous bulk of work he himself has done in the field.

Ing
 
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You know what Ing, I'll bet he loves every minute of it too! ....he's smirking right now..... see he just pretends to be interested in all that Titanic stuff so he can get those phones calls at 2 in the morning! he he

I was so glad to see you here...truly. And I appreciate all that you have shared Ing. I can;t wait to read the book.

Thanks so much for sharing.
Maureen.
 
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Wait, how far back do the Vikings go? My history is starting to fail me...earlier than 700 AD right or am I totally out of it. (Okay, Standart don't be too hard on me, I've been sick.)
Maureen.
 
I

I. M. McVey

Guest
Hallo Maureen, Michael, Inger and Readers,

As I said, the three-Century thing is quite a stretch, as there was a gap of over 100 years in there, and it comes down to only two Murdochs working the port. Efficient, that! ;-)

Michael, believe it or no, you came blame a whole pile of Murdochs on one man, a certain Ebenezer Murdoch who got tired of the scenery round the Isle of Skye and went to SW Scotland in the 1700s. He had a son, Samuel Lowdon Murdoch, who proceeded to have ten of his own children. Of those ten, five became Captains, and they had families of their own, and their sons went to sea and became captains, etc. It would be safe to call it two hundred years of seafaring. For over 100 of those years, nearly all of the Murdoch men went to sea, and most became Masters. Ironically, in William's generation, he was the only one to go to sea, and both his brothers stayed ashore (usually only one boy per generation would stay ashore).

As for the Viking connection, Ing, can you elucidate?? That is something I haven't heard any too much about. Could that explain the odd blonde brother I have??? (Will and I are both dark-haired, as are all the relatives, and we have this blondie brother, complete with blue eyes!)

As for the markers at the graveyard in Dalbeattie, you'll find most of the Murdoch markers in 'mariner's row', and the ties to the sea show in the list of ships and people lost. 1900-1912 was not a good time in the Murdoch family history, as there were quite a few losses, most of which happened to take place in April.

As for Inger's credit for collaboration, I have not done much other than take her about Dalbeattie/Kippford, and told a few tales. I don't think my happy listening to all the new things Ing finds about Lowe, Moody and the officers and crew quite constitutes 'collaboration', but it is great fun, and fascinating.

Cheers! Illia Mhurchaidh mac an Beatha ;-)
 
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I. M. McVey

Guest
A wee correction about Wm's generation. Of all the Murdochs (or associated relatives) of his generation, he was not the only one to go to sea: he had sea-going cousins. I meant, he was the only one of Captain Samuel Murdoch and Jeannie Murdoch's children to go to sea.

A lot of family lines ended in the period 1900-1910. William lost at 39 with no children. His brother James (unmarried, a chemist), also lost at age 39 to consumption, his Uncle William (shipmaster, unmarried), lost at age 50-ish, etc.

There are more, but this is sort of a random sample. Another thing that added to the loss of family lines was the number of people in the family who simply never married, or who did marry but never had any children. Notorious lot for marrying late -- if they marry at all -- and the tradition continues... ;-)

Now I am getting all lost in these details, so will end the now, and hope you enjoy.

Cheers! Ilya
 

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