Mr Roderick Chisholm

Member of the Harland & Wolff Guarantee Group

Roderick Chisholm

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, Rossshire 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 appear on the 1881 census living at Old Kilpatrick in Dunbartonshire and by the time of the 1891 census they have shifted to living at 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. 

He was married in Lisburn, Co Down in 1897 to Susan Anderson (b. 1874 in Co Down) and the couple had two children: Alice (1897-2002) and James (1899-1960), both born in Belfast. 

Susan Chisholm Roderick Chisholm

Susan and Roderick Chisholm
(Courtesy of Maureen Richardson)

On the 1901 census, the Chisholm family were 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 the rest of 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.


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 with her son James. Roberts' daughter Alice was married in Belfast in 1919 to Alfred McCambley (1894-1976) and she raised a family. She died on 11 February 2002 aged 104 and is also buried in Roselawn Cemetery, Belfast.

Roderick is remembered on his wife's headstone (Roselawn Cemetery, Belfast, section E, plot 158).


  1. Name often given as Roderick Robert Crispin Chisholm; his birth record states only one forename, Roderick. 


Roderick Chisholm
Susan Chisholm
Roderick Chisholm

Articles and Stories

The Times (1912) 

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Roderick Robert Crispin Chisholm (4 posts)
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Trevor Baxter, UK
Gavin Bell, UK

References and Sources

Belfast Weekly News, 25 April 1912, The Queen's Island Representatives
Larne Times, 27 April 1912, Queen's Island, a day of mourning
Search archive British newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

(2020) Roderick Chisholm Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #71, updated 13th January 2020 13:29:39 PM)