Mr Roderick Chisholm1 was born in Dumbarton, Dunbartonshire, Scotland on 20 December 1868.
He was the son of a Scottish father, James Chisholm (b. 1832), a shipwright, and an English mother Sophia Voaden (b. 1841). His mother was from Devon whilst his father hailed from Urray, Ross-shire and the couple had married in Devon in 1860.
Roderick had seven known siblings: James (b. 1861), Duncan (b. 1863), James (b. 1864), Mary (b. 1866), Charlotte (b. 1871), John (b. 1877) and Jessie (b. 1879).
The family appears on the 1881 census living at Old Kilpatrick in Dunbartonshire and by the time of the 1891 census they had moved to 17 Clydebank Terrace in Clydebank, Dunbartonshire. Roderick was by that time described as a ships' draughtsman.
Contemporary press states that Chisholm had been in the employment of Harland & Wolff for some twenty years by 1912; his profession took him from Clydebank, Scotland to Belfast, Ireland in the early 1890s. He was one of the leading, and contemporary press suggests, one of the most skilled draughtsmen in the company and he was at the forefront in the design of Olympic and Titanic. Highly respected in his field, he was also reportedly an accomplished linguist.
A photograph of staff at the Harland & Wolff drawing office is believed to show Chisholm examining plans of the Olympic Class liners.
He was married in Knockbreda Parish Church, Belfast on 24 February 1897 to Susan Anderson. Miss Anderson was born 15 May 1873 at 2 Clyde Street in east Belfast, daughter of Thomas Smyth Anderson, a clerk (and later a director) of a felt works, and the former Elizabeth McKinley.
Marriage record between Roderick and Susan
Roderick and Susan had two children: their firstborn Alice arrived on 22 November 1897 whilst they were residents of 36 Jocelyn Street, Belfast. Their second and last child, James, arrived on 24 June 1899 whilst they were residents of 24 Lomond Avenue, Belfast.
On the 1901 census the Chisholm family are shown living at 12 Sandford Avenue, Pottinger, east Belfast and by the 1911 census at 6 Sandford Avenue, Pottinger. On both occasions, Chisholm was described as a ship's draughtsman.
As a testament to his worth to Harland & Wolff, Chisholm was one of the nine-strong "guarantee group" of employees chosen to oversee the smooth running of the Titanic's maiden voyage.
Roderick Chisholm, like his counterparts, died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified. His estate, worth £140, 5s, 6d, was administered to his widow on 10 June 1912.
THE LATE MR E. (sic) CHISHOLM
Mr Chisholm, late of 6 Sandford Avenue, Bloomfield, Belfast, was the chief draughtsman in connection with the Olympic and Titanic. In the words of a Queen's Island official Mr Chisholm, who was on the Titanic's ill-fated maiden trip, knew more about the two liners than any other man. He is survived by a widow and a young family. - Larne Times, 27 April 1912
His widow Susan remained at 6 Sandford Avenue, Pottinger for the rest of her life and died on 22 February 1961 aged 87. She is buried in Roselawn Cemetery, Belfast (section E, plot 158) with her son James; Roderick is remembered their headstone.
Details about his son James’ later personal life is largely obscure but it appears he never married and, like his father, also became a draughtsman. He was involved in two separate road traffic accidents, one in 1928 (with his mother) and the next in late-1932, the latter which left him badly scarred. He died on 18 September 1960 and his last address was given as 6 Sandford Avenue.
Daughter Alice was married in Belfast in 1919 to dentist Alfred McCambley (1893-1976) and they raised a family. Alice died on 11 February 2002 aged 104 and is also buried in Roselawn Cemetery, Belfast.