Mr William John Murdock

William John Murdock

Mr 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), a labourer, and Anne McMaster (b. 1852), natives of Gransha and Kircubbin, respectively, both in Co Down who had married in Kircubbin near Newtownards, Co Down on 3 July 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, initially at different houses on Dufferin Street, and had a further three children: Martin (b. 28 October 1887), Sarah Jane (b. 5 January 1890) and Margaret (b. 28 October 1891).

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 on 27 February 1901 to Catherine Robson (b. 18 March 1879 on Skipton Street, Belfast), daughter of labourer David Robson and Margaret Anne Hastings. He was described as a fireman and his address was listed as 24 Trillick Street and his bride's as 88 Thorndyke Street. 

The couple went on to have four children: Joseph Robson (b. 16 July 1902), Anne Martin (b. 20 August 1903), William John (b. 13 December 1904) and David (b. 26 February 1907). Their youngest David lived only a few months and died on 15 June 1907.

When the 1901 census was conducted William was absent but his wife was listed as living at 88 Thorndyke Street, Pottinger, Belfast the home of her widowed mother Margaret Robson and her family. Reappearing in time for the 1911 census, William, his wife and children were then 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, Belfast). As a fireman he could expect monthly wages of £6. Also serving aboard was a neighbour from the same street, fellow-stoker John Haggan.

Murdock was rescued from the sinking, although in which lifeboat is unknown3. He was not called to give evidence to either the British or American Inquiries into the sinking.

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 Murdock died in Sydney on 1 July 1941. His widow Catherine died 22 March 1965 and they are buried together.

William Murdock Grave

William Murdock Grave

William Murdock's grave in Sydney, Australia
(Photo courtesy of David Lean)


  1. 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.
  2. He gave his year of birth as 1878 in his circa 1920 crew card
  3. 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).


William John Murdock

Articles and Stories

Belfast Newsletter (1912) 

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References and Sources

Photo: National Archives (Courtesy of Gavin Bell)
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Link and cite this biography

(2019) William John Murdock Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #2395, updated 19th November 2019 12:31:27 PM)