William John Murdock 1 was born in Great Clifton, Cumberland, England on 17 September 1874 2 and he was baptised on 1 November that year.
He was the son of Irish immigrant parents, Nathaniel Murdock (b. 1853) and Anne McMaster (b. 1852), natives of Kircubbin near Newtownards in Co Down, who had married in 1873 before settling across the Irish sea in Cumbria where they started their family. Their first five children were born in England: William (b. 1874), Ross (b. 1877), Thomas Henry (b. 1880), Mary Eliza (1881) and Nathaniel (b. 1885). They returned to Ireland and settled in east Belfast and had a further three children: Martin (b. 1887), Sarah Jane (b. 1890) and Maggie (b. 1892).
William Murdock first appears on the 1881 census living at 6 Low Street in Great Clifton, Cumberland and his father was described as a labourer. The next time the family appears on record is for the 1901 census of Ireland when William's parents and siblings were living at 24 Trillick Street in Pottinger, east Belfast and his father was described as an ironworks labourer.
William had been married in early 1901 to Catherine Robson (b. 1879 in Belfast) and they went on to have three children: Joseph Robson (b. 1902), Anne Martin (b. 1904) and William John (b. 1905).
When the 1901 census was conducted William was absent but his wife was listed as living at 88 Thorndyke Street, Pottinger, the home of her widowed mother Margaret Robson and her family. Reappearing in time for the 1911 census, William, his wife and children are now listed as living at 92 Thorndyke Street, again with his mother-in-law. He was, at the time, described as a labourer.
Murdock first signed on to the Titanic on 29 March 1912 for her delivery trip from Belfast to Southampton. He signed on again on 6 April and gave his previous ship as the Brayhead, and his current address as the Sailors' Home, Southampton (although he by now lived at 78 Thorndyke Street). As a fireman he could expect monthly wages of £6.
Murdock was rescued from the sinking, although in which lifeboat is unknown 3.
William returned to Belfast and continued working at sea into the 1920s. In the midst of that decade he and his family emigrated to Sydney, Australia where he continued his seafaring duties, working on coastal ships between Newcastle and Sydney.
William died in Sydney on 1 July 1941.
William Murdock's grave in Sydney, Australia
(Photo courtesy of David Lean)
Peter Engberg, Sweden
Phillip Gowan, USA
Bill Wormstedt, USA
- Spelling of surname varies depending on record being Murdock and Murdoch. Murdock is regarded as the correct spelling, as per his birth registration and his marriage record, including various census records.
- He gave his year of birth as 1878 in his circa 1920 crew card
- Murdock claimed to have survived the sinking by jumping into the water and being 'picked up' by the collapsible boat he helped lowering (D). This is not possible, however. Either he was in it from the beginning or he was in his own assigned boat (16). Boat D picked up Mr F M Hoyt and nobody else. It is altogether possible that Murdock was one of the two firemen in this boat, but if so, he was in it when it was lowered away. Boat C never picked up anybody. Again Mr Murdock may have been one of the firemen in this boat, but D is perhaps slightly more probable. Murdock was assigned to boat 16, and may have been one of the firemen in that boat after all. He would later claim he was in a boat with Mrs Brown (how did he know who she was?). Then again one fireman was transferred from boat 16 to 6...perhaps this was Murdock (it was probably trimmer Pelham, however).