The Life and Mystery of First Officer William Murdoch
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Ada and Children

According to Richard Edkins on his website Murdoch of the Titanic: "To the day of her death, Ada remained bitter at the way in which the White Star Line had ignored her as William’s widow. She never married again. She said to her family that her only disappointment in the marriage was that she and William had never had any children. Her love must have been abiding and very deep." (1.)

The Weeping Woman

On day two of the United States Inquiry, when junior wireless operator Harold Bride was giving testimony regarding ice warnings the Titanic had received, an unusual event took place, as described by Wyn Wade in his book, The Titanic, End of a Dream:

“In the midst of this testimony, the doors to the Myrtle Room blew open, and a woman judged near hysterics barged in, weeping, and asking those nearest if they had any information about Officer Murdoch. Apparently no one had the nerve to tell her that the first officer had perished, and her insistence grew louder. Finally, Chairman Smith looked over at the huddled trio of Ismay, Franklin, and Lightoller.

“ ‘Mr. Lightoller,’ Smith said, ‘would you be good enough to tell this lady whatever she wishes to know.’

“Lightoller didn’t appear to relish the assignment, but he took the young woman to the far side of the room. Shortly thereafter, she left.” (The Titanic, Wade, p.132 (18.))

Mystery has surrounded the identity of the "weeping woman", an event also evidently covered by The New York Times. Elizabth Gibbons notes: "If Lightoller or the New York Times's reporter knew who the lady was they were too discreet to say. She was not a relative; interrupting a hearing of the United States Senate, in the Waldorf Astoria, in 1912, implies an American woman of the Gilded Age upper class; beyond this, nothing can be inferred. Whoever she was, she went away, leaving behind a minor mystery and a public demonstration of profound attachment."(55.)

A Sunday April 21, 1912 article in the New York Tribune sheds light on the possible name of this "weeping woman" when it mentions the dramatic "appearance of a young woman, said to be a Miss Harding, who sobbingly inquired for Second Officer Lighttoller [sic], from whom she sought some further tidings of the first officer, Murdock [sic], who went down with the ship.” Without further information it is difficult to draw anything but very speculative conclusions, but one does wonder whether she was possibly a "Miss Nancy Harding" when considering the letter Murdoch wrote to a "Miss Nancy" in 1907 (thanks to correspondent Vicki for finding this reference - see also this article here for more information).

A Sunday April 21, 1912 article in the New York Tribune
identifies the young 'sobbing' woman as "Miss Harding".
Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Click here for the full page

Since Murdoch’s wife, Ada, was left in Southampton, speculation has existed over the identity of the “weeping woman”. In Richard Edkin’s Dalbeattie website, a likely answer as to her background is arrived at:

“Suzanne Störmer said that the ‘Weeping Woman’ was a society lady of New York; she and Jenni Atkinson regarded the ‘Weeping Woman’ as being a keen fan of Murdoch in his own lifetime, but probably no more than that. We then discussed the almost ‘pop star’ status of the White Star Line officers, who apparently DID misbehave aboard, on occasion, or were able to attend social engagements in New York.” (Richard Edkins, Murdoch of the Titanic (1.))

Titanic researcher and author Inger Sheil also mentions Susanne Störmer speculating without evidence that the 'weeping woman' was no more than an innocent friend in her book William McMaster Murdoch, A Career at Sea (2002). Sheil writes: "What I question is Stormer's interpretation of the event - she has put a very innocent spin on it, stating (without qualification) that the woman was a 'friend', implying that she was more a friend of O'Loughlin's. However, there is no evidence cited for this contention, and the woman is not even identified! There are other constructions that could be put on the incident, not all of them entirely innocent, but (as far as I know) there is no evidence justifying the certitude of Susanne's depiction of this matter." (Inger Sheil, 9th February 2003 (8.))

The "weeping woman" may also possibly be connected to a certain Victoria Farrell-Cofield of Vancouver, who believes that "my great grandfather, William Murdock was my father's, mother's, father" and that William evens looks "so much like my father. They have the same Murdock ears." The article contains several glaring inaccuracies but alleges that due to shame over "Murdock's" involvement in the tragedy it "remained a family secret for many years".

For further information on this and other possible romantic attachments, please refer to the entire article in the section Mystery Great-Granddaugher