The Life and Mystery of First Officer William Murdoch
In the UK, the term “Master Mariner” is reserved only for those who hold an unlimited master's certificate. The term “unlimited” (often referred to as unrestricted) indicates that there are no limits on size, power or geographic location on the certificate. It is the highest level of professional qualification amongst mariners and Deck Officers in the British Merchant Navy. The Extra Master's qualification, which was discontinued in the 1990s, used to be the highest professional qualification and it was the pinnacle for any mariner to achieve. There are also various other levels of Master's certificates, which may be restricted or limited to Home Trade/Near Coastal Voyages and/or by gross tonnage. The holder of a restricted Master's certificate is not referred to as a "Master Mariner".
In what can only be described as an astounding piece of detailed maritime research, German researcher Petra
Feyahn has compiled what must be the most detailed document of William Murdoch's maritime life.
Kindly allowing the document and its accompanying record of his father Samuel's maritme life to be presented on this website,
Petra emphasises that it is still a work in progress and that it will be updated as new information is discovered.
The document has also availed a new perspective on his life. Petra explains:
"From the first time William set his foot on a vessel we are now rather consistently in a position to tell
where he spent his life on each and every specific day of his seafaring life. Quite an overwhelming insight, enabling us to look
at things from a different angle. For instance, why did Will chose to go for steam vessels and so on ... not because the future was theirs,
but because he was "wasting" a good deal of his time constrained to a foreign port, waiting to be chartered for a lousy 6 shillings a ton
risking his life in long-term sailings on a perilous sea. I can well understand why he was more or less aiming for fixed schedules, steady
ships as well as a steady life, and some kind of security, rather than listening a thousand times to a sweeping broom on the wooden deck flooring,
being condemmed to the inertia of waiting, day in, day out, disentangling the ropes and riggings again and again and again ...
I gathered all the information on one piece of paper I began to understand that the gaps in his White Star Line Service record were nothing
else than the RNR drill sessions he had to undergo since he joined the Royal Naval Reserve… I decided to work out a good portion of Samuel`s
seafaring life as well because my thought was you can only understand the son in looking at what his father did/encountered"
The document describes everything from the year, name of the vessel, captain, the voyage direction, exact dates, rank and extensive notes on each voyage.