The Night is debunked

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Walter Lord's "The Night Lives On" is a series of very focused and well-researched chapters on the Titanic disaster. Lord seems to have developed a healthy skepticism, with age. He is quite critical of the Titanic's crew, and Lightoller, who complained that on April 14 "everything was against them." Lord says of them that given all their mistakes and sloppiness, it's "a wonder they lasted as long as they did." Lord discusses the safety issues, and compares Titanic to the 1858 mammoth iron ship, Great Eastern. The latter was much safer, in Lord's estimation. In fact, since Great Eastern, safety has taken a step backwards. Lord is quite critical of Titanic's construction. He talks about the family of eight, the Goodwins, who were all lost at sea. Anyone who reads Lord's "Night Lives On" will come away very disgusted with what happened. In sum, in "Night Goes On" Lord analyzes the disaster from the vantagepoint of someone who is debunking a myth. To him, the cause of the whole thing is disgusting. Titanic is a horrible, but wholly absurd, chapter in maritime history. There's nothing particularly romantic about ignoring ice warnings, traveling at top speed into ice, or designing a ship based on luxury, first and foremost, not safety. It's appropriate that Lord is the one to do this debunking, because his original publication, "Night To Remember" generated a lot interest in Titanic. This interest unfortunately made the disaster something of an alter of worship, and myth. I really enjoyed reading "Night Lives On," and I highly recommend it to others.
Lord's "Night Lives On" contains a number of serious factual errors in relation to his chapter on the Californian.
He makes a number of serious mistakes in reporting the evidence, introducing as fact assertions that are entirely at odds with what was actually said. A bit of a mythmaker himself.
Don't hold back, Senan. What mistakes? Maybe we should ask Philip Hind to add some of the Californian books to the discussion.

P.S. When is your book coming out? I'm anxious to get a copy.

Daniel Rourke

Dear Senan

Like Mr Herbold I am also anxious to learn more about your book. I have heard much praise for its content already; I don't want you to divulge any of your historical detective work but I would like to know how you have managed to get along regarding the survivors: have you managed to track down all of the Irish survivors? Including the crew, William Burke, et al? I, myself, have never managed to track down the following people: Catherine Connolly, Nora Murphy, Annie Jermyn, Margaret Daly, John Kennedy, Margaret Madigan, Catherine McCarthy and Hannah O'Brien. I am sure that your work has managed to uncover these people.

One last question: does your book have a photograph of Helen Shine? I have been hunting for some time to try and track down her family in Connecticut but I have had no luck.

Hope to hear your reply.

Daniel Rourke, County Fermanagh
Will post something when I get a chance listing the TNLO mistakes in reporting the Californian evidence.
To Daniel:
I had some pictures of Ellen Shine, but they were all of her in old age and of poor quality. They didn't make the book. I saw a wedding picture of her (in a photo of her at home... in the background, hanging on a wall) but this is now missing, perhaps destroyed.
I have nice pix of Hannah O'Brien, Kate McCarthy, Maggie Daly (ugly woman), Annie Jermyn (thanks to Phil Gowan), and Kate Connolly. I had a pic of John Kennedy, but the publisher deemed it too poor to publish. I wouldn't have thought so!
William Burke had a long life and died in Liverpool. Norah Murphy I never could track down...

Seong Ae-Mun

Dear David and Senan,
I have found nothing to do with Norah Murphy either, but have found some information relating to John Kennedy, and some strange accounts he gave of being in the water. I was wondering, do either of you know if Daniel Buckley or Eugene Daly ever married? If so, what were their wives names? Is it not true that Buckley died in World War 1? If so, perhaps he may not have married because he was so young. Is there any way to preorder this book? I had not heard it about before. Thanks much.

John Stocker

Daniel Buckley was indeed killed in action during WW1, and at a very young age. As far as I'm aware, Daniel Buckley never married, but Eugene Daly may have, although I do not know who he was married to, and where. I don't think he was married when he was on the Titanic. Perhaps Senan or someone else on the board can be of more help regarding this. You have accounts from John Kennedy saying that he was in the water? I doubt that he was based on what I've seen. I think he entered one of the aftermost starboard boats, perhaps Lifeboat # 13 or # 15. Sorry I couldn't be of more help. Senan,I am looking forward to your book. Is there any way to preorder a copy?
Best regards to all,
John Stocker
Key West, Florida

Daniel Rourke

Dear Senan

Many thanks for your reply. I'm glad to hear how well you have come along in your research and I wait eagerly to get my hands on a copy of your book.

Highest regards

Daniel Rourke
Back to ANTR. The one thing that bothered me about it was the lack of an Index. It's always frustrating trying to remember an incident involving a particular passenger and having to thumb through the whole book to find it. I hope the next time it's re-printed that that is corrected. With search engines what they are today, that should be easy to do.
So I leafed through Chapter 14 of TNLO over the weekend and found no fewer than 42 distortions, mistakes, omissions, or slants that provided only one point of view.
I didn't count any tendentious statements, sophistry or specious reasoning. But at the end of the day one of the few things we have is the EVIDENCE, and it should be relayed accurately. Walter Lord lamentably falls down in this basic area.
Some examples as requested by Mike Herbold:

1) p. 166 paperback edition: "Although 30 miles away, Captain Lord told the Boston Evening Globe.."

There is no such newspaper. Lord told the Boston Traveller his overnight position was 30 miles from the wreckage, not from the SOS position, 19 or 20 miles away. A distortion.

2) p. 167 "At 10.21 Groves saw several white patches in the water ahead"... then reversed engines etc.
Actually the Californian was stopped at 10.21 Lord reversing engines at 10.20 and it taking a minute to take off the ways and come to rest.

3) p. 168 "Around 11, Groves noticed the lights of a distant steamer.."
Groves said repeatedly he saw it first at 11.10.
Captain Lord saw the light much earlier - at 10.30pm.

4) p. 168 "The steamer stopped about 11.40"...
Neglects to mention Lord said it stopped at 11.30 and Californian times were BEHIND those of Titanic, so Groves saw he stop at 11.50 Titanic time.

5) "11.45 the 3rd Officer still beleived she was a passenger ship. Lord still felt she was a freighter."
Omits mention of the fact that Lord said this conversation never took place.

6) At 12 Groves handed over the watch to Stone
12.10 actually.

7) p. 169 At 12.15 Groves went below to Evans who was off duty and ready to sleep.

Omits their conversation in which Groves made no mention of having seen a large passenger steamer.

8) Gibson also noted there was a glsare of lights on her after deck - a feature not at all characteristic of a tramp steamer in mid Atlantic.

Gibson testified the opposite. 7550 Did you expect to see a glare of light on the after part of a tramp steamer? - Yes sir, on some of them.
Gibson 7728 There was nothing at all about her to resemble a passenger steamer.

9) p. 169/70 "Five rockets altogether... Stone whistled down the speaking tube..."

At no point did Stone say in evidence that he called Lord after seeing five rockets. The evidence rather suggests that he called him after seeing two flashes, the second he was sure was a rocket.

10) p. 170 "I don't know," Stone replied, "but they were all white."
This quote does not appear in the manner described. Stone says he told him the colour was white, rather than the suggested "all" ("five") white.

11) Lord later claimed Stone had told him of only one white rocket, but said he had been sleeping soundly and had no reason to doubt Stone's version of the exchange.

Lord's refusal to doubt the 2nd Officer in fact related to a conversation Stone said they had at 2.45am, not the first notification when Lord did not say he was sleeping. This is rather an outrageous mistake by Walter Lord.

12) The three rockets seen by Gibson and Stone after the five seen by Stone alone: author says the 2nd of the three came "a few minutes" after the first of the three.

It came, in fact, 20 mins later, by Gibson's evidence.

13) "Both men could see the white stars floating down..." simply not true.

14) Stone added that there must be something the matter with her. - Stone denies saying this.

15) p. 171 Gibson saw a list to starboard. "Stone agreed." - Stone emphatically did NOT agree.

16) p. 172 Once more Lord got up from the chart room, crossed to his own room and answered the call.

Lord never mentions crossing or walking and it appears from the evidence that a speaking tube was close to hand in the chart room - else why lie down in the chart room and not one's own
bunk? Lord was expecting calls - he wanted to know about any movement by the stranger.

17) p. 173 "Informed Capt Lord three different times"... Lord has no recollection of any third call.

18) "Stewart did nothing until 4.30am...."
The evidence suggests Stewart tried to Morse the steamer he saw at 4.30am.

19) Lord's account "impossible to reconcile with the accounts of Stone, Gibson..."

Actually Lord's account echoes the evidence of Gibson who said Stone told him of calling the Captain after seeing a second white flash, which Stone was sure was a rocket, having thought the first was a shooting star. Gibson said Stone said Lord told him (Stone) to Morse this ship.
Stone then told Gibson in Gibson's account: "She had not answered him, BUT FIRED MORE ROCKETS." These extras were part of the first five, because Gibson arrived up when five had been fired altogether.

20) p. 175 By now seamen were swinging out the Californian's boats for rescue work...

Author implies this happened at 8-8.30am. It was actually done at 6am. Literary licence.

21) p. 176: Californian resumed her journey at 11.20 said Lord, 10.40 by Groves.

Neglects to mention Lord was backed up in evidence by Stewart and by wireless messages and the log.

We're halfway through Walter Lord's list of errors in his short chapter. Time for a break.
The name of his chapter, by the way, was "A Certain Amount of Slackness"....

Don’t get me wrong — I think Walter Lord writes beautifully. The patron saint of Titanophiles. But that doesn’t stop him being a plaster saint in some respects, and I’m sorry, Joe Shomi, but it simply isn’t right to say TNLO is “well-researched.” It ain’t. It’s a series of essays, some very entertaining, but not worthy of the total suspension of our critical faculties.

Here we go then, another 21 mistakes from the Californian chapter:

22) p. 177 author reports that Californian’s carpenter, W.F. McGregor, spoke to the Clinton Daily Item in Massachusetts.
- He didn’t. The carpenter’s cousin did. He related a second hand garbled account.

23) p. 178) Carpenter McGregor’s account…
Carpenter McGregor’s cousin’s half-remembered confabulated account in which he couldn’t even remember the name of his cousin’s ship properly.

24) p. 179) McGregor — his interview in the Daily Item…

25) Third Officer Groves who first saw the strange ship…
Capt Lord first saw the strange ship.

26) p. 181 Author attacks Captain Lord’s suggestion that the Titanic gave the wrong position in her SOS calls.

Wake up, Walter. She did give the wrong position. Wreck discovered 1985. TNLO published 1986 when wreck co-ordinates had not been made public. They show wreck 13.5 miles east of SOS.

Walter Lord writes: “In support of the wrong position theory, the Californian’s defenders produce endless mathematical calculations…”

And ahem! — they were vindicated by the wreck’s location.

“The finders of the wreck have not seen fit to reveal her exact location…”
They did after TNLO was written and proved Walter Lord and the SOS position wrong.

27) “Every officer on the Californian agreed the rockets resembled distress signals…”

Rubbish. Stone and Gibson said they did NOT think the ship they were looking at was in distress. That’s their sworn evidence.

28) p. 183. Capt Lord said told of one rocket, but “contradicted by all three men on the bridge.”

Stewart was never on the bridge when rockets were fired. Stone is silent about the number of rockets he reported to Lord, but Gibson’s evidence supports Lord rather than contradicts him.

29) p. 184. Author attacks theory of two pairs of ships, “each with one firing rockets.”

A willful distortion. Stone believed the rockets could be coming from a distance beyond the ship he was looking at because they were so faint and low-lying.

30) p. 185 “We were talking about it all the time” said Gibson.

Stone testified they weren’t talking about it all the time. Author omits.

31) p. 186. It didn’t occur to either man that the ship they were watching was trying to identify herself. They suspected she was trying to get help.

Not true. Stone thought she was communicating with another vessel to the southward and said “a steamer in distress does not steam away from you, my lord.”

32) “Butler Aspinwall” quoted as counsel to the British Inquiry on a number of occasions.
The counsel’s name was Aspinall.

33) p. 187 Twice Capt Lord had to get up and walk to his own quarters to talk to Stone on the speaking tube.

There is no evidence for these walks.

34) p. 187 the previous day had been “no especially difficult. (Lord had) no reason to be exhausted.”
Lord had been up since 5am previously. He went to bed at 12.15. That’s a 19-hour day. And Lord was to be woken again at 4.30am on the 15th.

35) p.188 “Lord was an austere autocrat”

No evidence adduced to support this contention. In fact Lord repeatedly showed loyalty in evidence to his officers and declined invitations to criticize them.

36) p. 190 McGregor’s interview in the Daily Item….


Sorry, folks, I have mislaid one page of my shorthand notes on this subject, so I have to leave it there.

You may think half-a-dozen evidentiary mistakes to be a poor showing in any book.
36 mistakes and sleights of hand in a single chapter (I have mislaid the other 6) cannot be said to be good research by the very mildest verdict.

But Walter Lord was not above casting aspersions at the other side, as he sees it.

He writes in this chapter on the Californian in TNLO that Capt Lord’s defenders “are highly selective in presenting the evidence.”

Physician, heal thyself.
Okay guys, this is a short one. I swear...
Thanks to all who expressed interest (faked or not) in my book "The Irish Aboard Titanic" which is now due out in mid-May.
The release date keeps slipping back I feel like this is a Titanic launch with the usual 23,000 tons of grease and tallow or whatever. Will we ever see this blasted thing?
Anyway, the cover at least is very nice... and for those interested in pre-ordering, I understand something of the kind may be available by sending an email to
You should include your credit card and all details. The book will retail for IR£17, but that could be US$21-22. The publishers say they won't quote a dollar price now but will simply make a charge based on the rate of exchange on the day should any of you be foolish enough to actually order. Shipping and packaging extra again.
Eugene Daly did marry and has an elderly daughter still barely with us, so I won't say further. Two interesting Daly pix in book.

John Stocker

Thanks for the information on your book. I am looking forward to its release. Does Wolf Hound Press have a website that we can order the book at? Thanks for the information.
Key West, Florida
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