Encyclopedia Titanica

Motley Notes (McElroy and Smith)


The Sketch

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I picked up an illustrated paper this morning, and the very first picture upon which my eyes fell was the portrait of a clean-shaven, jolly-looking man in a peaked cap. Next to this was the portrait of a much older man with a grey, almost white, moustache. Both faces were perfectly familiar to me. "Chief Purser McElroy (clean-shaven) and Dr. W. F. N. O'Loughlin, the chief ship's surgeon. Both are missing." So ran the legend below the portraits.

By this time, I am afraid, most of us have made up our minds as to the true meaning of that word "missing." When I crossed from New York to Plymouth on the Adriatic, just before Christmas 1910, McElroy was the chief purser of that vessel Dr. O'Loughlin was the chief ship's surgeon, and Captain Smith was the skipper.

I knew that they expected to be transferred to the Olympic, but I did not know that they had been re-transferred to the Titanic until I saw their portraits amongst the missing."

I described McElroy, very briefly, in these Notes, and here is the description "Seven of us," I wrote, "sit together at meals, and I fancy we are the merriest table in the saloon. At the head sits one of the chief officers. He is so modest a fellow that I will forbear to name him but let me hint that he is famous among all those who go down to the sea in ships as a first-class raconteur."

Many and many a man, I imagine, has to thank McElroy for a thoroughly jolly voyage across the Atlantic.

Life on a Big Liner

You get to know a man very well, even in the short space of a week, when you breakfast with him, lunch with him, dine with him, take your coffee and cigar after dinner in the smoking-room with him, pace the deck with him and exchange gossip on congenial topics, and about mutual friends. I never saw McElroy out of temper many and many a time, on the other hand, he showed himself possessed of infinite tact, and smoothed over the little irascibilities of one or two of our party.

Big, jolly, courteous, human to the last inch, he was the ideal man for the position he held. He loved the life of a great liner, I think the open air, the movement, the fresh faces on each trip, the joyous days ashore. I am quite sure that he never gave a thought to possible danger. If the boat gave a terrific lurch, he would say laughingly that the man at the wheel would have to be kicked.

Every evening, before dinner, two or three privileged ones would be bidden to his cabin to drink a cocktail of his own shaking. It was thus that I came to know the little doctor. Captain Smith struck me as a person to be treated with considerable deference. He seemed a rather aloof man, very dignified, very stately, all-powerful.

One story told me during that crossing will illustrate his character.

Two ladies had kept to their stateroom during the entire voyage. This rather silly conduct nettled the skipper, who sent them a message on the last evening to say that he should expect to see them at dinner that night, and had reserved places for them at his own table. They obeyed.

Good bye

I can picture these men of whom I have spoken during the last dread hours in the life of the Titanic. I can hear Captain Smith giving his orders that the women and children should be put into the boats, and I can see big McElroy helping to carry out those orders.

When all is over, when the last boat has pushed off, when the last call for help has gone out over the waves, when it is evident that the huge creature is fast settling down into her grave two miles below the surface of the Atlantic, I can see those two men, who have worked together for years and faced peril together for the good of the line, gripping hands for the last time. "Well, good-bye, Mac." "Good-bye, Sir." Take any chance you get, old man." "And you must do the same, Sir." "Me? No, boy. I go with her when she goes." "But, Sir, there 's no blame" Blame be damned, D'you think I 'm going to end my days being pointed at as the man who piled up the Titanic? No, Sir! She's going. So long."


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Encyclopedia Titanica (2019) Motley Notes (McElroy and Smith) (The Sketch, Wednesday 24th April 1912, ref: #21972, published 23 January 2019, generated 4th December 2022 11:02:47 PM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/motley-notes-mcelroy-and-smith.html