The Life and Mystery of First Officer William Murdoch
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William Murdoch: The Time-line

The following chronological timeline uses commonly accepted times and dates as well as some minor alterations and adjustments to account for new information and continued research. Especially in regard to the launching of the lifeboats there are several revisionist theories. What is represented here is a simply an approximation based on a mix of both commonly accepted timings as reported after the US and UK inquiries and recent research.


May 10th

Grandfather Captain James Murdoch born


Mother Jane "Jeannie" Muirhead McMaster born


January 27th

Captain James Murdoch marries Agnes Cumming


Father Samuel Murdoch is born


December 14th

Samuel Murdoch marries Jane "Jeannie" Muirhead McMaster at St Michael's Church in Liverpool


Samuel Murdoch and wife Jane Muirhead lose 4 year old daughter Mary McMaster in an infant death.


February 28th

William is born to Samuel and Jane at “Sunnyside”, Dalbeattie, Scotland

March 18th

Birth registered in the Dalbeattie Registration Office

Cousins James Cumming of Kippford and William Black of Palnackie born


Graduates from Dalbeattie High School with a Diploma


July 31st

Began four year apprenticeship aboard Charles Cosworth. First destination: San Francisco.

1889 - 1890

Apprentice aboard Charles Cosworth to Portland,Oregon.

1890 - 1891

Apprentice aboard Charles Cosworth to Valparaiso.

1891 - 1892

Apprentice aboard Charles Cosworth to Iquique.


October 12th

Successfully passes the examination for his 2nd mate's certificate .


August 7th

Signs on to Iquiqe, as second officer. with father as captain. Sailed from Rotterdam to Frederikstad (Sweden) and then to Cape Town, Newcastle, Antofagasta and Iquique.


While aboard the Iquique - met the apprentice Stanley Lord on board the Naiad at Rotterdam.


March 23rd

Murdoch passes his 1st mate's certificate


May 12th

First Mate on Saint Cuthbert. Sails from Ipswich to Mauritius, and from there to Newport (Wales) via Newcastle, Callao and Hamburg (Germany).


September 28th

Gains Extra Master’s Certificate N° 025780 - Liverpool

1897 – 1899

April 3rd

First Mate Lydgate. Sails from New York to Shanghai, then to Portland, Oregon, afterwards to Tsientin (China), from there to Portland, Oregon again and finally to Antwerp (Belgium).


Boer War. Trained as Lieutenant in Royal Naval Reserve qualifying to become White Star Line steamship officer

1899 – 1900

June 30th

Begins working for White Star Line


April 17th

Grandfather Captain James Murdoch dies at his home in Kippford aged 85

August 3rd

Medic signs as Fourth Officer for the maiden voyage



Cousin, John Murdoch, a captain, dies at sea with his wife



Runic -Second Officer


AB Seaman James Cumming is William's guest at the luxurious Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool


12th February

Runic departs on Australian run. During voyage meets Ada, 29 year-old New Zealand school teacher


Arabic - North Atlantic run


24th May






Oceanic - Second Officer.


Oceanic is the first White Star ship to have a mutiny, involving 35 stokers who are arrested in Liverpool.




9th of May

Oceanic - As Second Officer

April 4th

Uncle, William Murdoch, a captain, dies at sea

Oceanic - As First Officer

Older brother James Murdoch, a chemist, dies young at 39



Adriatic - First Officer from maiden voyage onward.

10th April

Uncle John Murdoch, a first officer, dies at sea

2 September

Marries Ada (née Banks)

23 September

Back aboard Adriatic


8 September

Promoted from Sub-Lieutenant to Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve


Looses moustache.

23 May

Joins Olympic as First Officer

14 June

Maiden voyage of Olympic

20 September

Olympic collides with HMS Hawke


Rejoins Olympic



Olympic strikes sunken wreck, broken propeller blade


Olympic nearly runs aground.

24 March

Signs on as Chief Officer of Titanic

27 March

Junior officers report to Murdoch for Titanic’s sea trials

2 April

Titanic’s sea trials, including a stopping test

3 April

Titanic arrives in Southampton to prepare for maiden voyage

8 April

Writes letter to sister “Peg”, expressing disappointment at being demoted from Chief Officer to First Officer, while wife Ada is taken on tour of Titanic by another officer.

9 April

Wilde arrives to take over as Chief Officer. Board of Trade Emigration Officer Maurice Clarke boards Titanic and is assisted by Lightoller and Murdoch for many hours as he carefully checks to make sure that Titanic meets safety requirements.

10 April

Noon. Sailing day. Titanic’s displacement almost causes collision with New York.

6:30pm Arrives Cherbourg to pick up passengers. Murdoch allegedly refuses French Naval officer Commander Leloup to board Titanic. Departs for Queenstown at 8:10pm.

11 April

11.30 am. Titanic arrives at Queenstown, Ireland. Murdoch writes letter to father and mother, mentioning New York incident. Last photograph of Murdoch taken with Lightoller, closing a gangway.

1:30pmTitanic departs Queenstown, destination New York. Murdoch writes out a lifeboat list indicating who is stationed at each lifeboat.

13/14 April

Cousin William Black, captain of cargo steamer the Borderer on its way from Calais to New York passes two large icebergs but is without wireless to alert other ships.

14 April

7:00pm Murdoch allegedly relieves Lightoller for supper (contrary to IMM/White Star Regulations)

7:15pm Murdoch orders lamp trimmer Samuel Hemming to secure the forward fo’c’c’le hatch to prevent glow from interfering with crow’s nest and bridge watch

9:17pm Quartermaster Hichens wakes up Murdoch.

9:55pm Murdoch on deck, reads night order book, etc.

10:00pm Second Officer Lightoller hands over the watch to Murdoch, passing on information regarding temperature and conditions.

11:35pm Lookouts ring bell 3 times for ice now discernable ahead. Murdoch assesses situation, expecting Boxhall to turn ship two points to left, taking it south of danger.

11:36pm Lookouts spot iceberg right ahead and alert the bridge. Moody relays message to Murdoch who gives orders for “full astern” and “hard-a-starboard” and closes watertight compartments.

11:40pm Impact. Iceberg scraps along Titanic’s starboard side, breaching five watertight compartments..

11:59pm Quartmaster Hichens is told “that will do” by Murdoch.

April 15

12:00am Captain Smith orders the uncovering of the lifeboats and for Murdoch to begin mustering the passengers. Murdoch begins to supervise cranking out starboard side lifeboats

12:25am Smith gives the order to begin loading the lifeboats

12:40am No.7, first lifeboat to be launched, by Murdoch.

12:45am No.5 launched by Murdoch, says “Good bye. Good luck” to Third Officer Pitman.

12.55am No.3 launched by Murdoch. Men allowed as no women in the vicinity

1:05am No.1 launched by Murdoch, including Sir Cosmo and Duff Gordon. Only 12 aboard (capacity 40)

1:15am Officers meet in Murdoch's cabin. Guns issued.

1:30am No. 9 launched by Murdoch

1:35am No.11 launched by Murdoch

1:40am No.13 launched. No.15 launched by Murdoch 30 seconds later and barely avoids collision as it is lowered on top of No.13.

1:50am Murdoch crosses over to the portside and launches Boat no. 10.

2:00am Collapsible C launched by Murdoch, with White Star President Bruce Ismay also aboard. Shots fired.

2:15am Collapsible A floats free. Murdoch disappears, presumed drowned.

2:20am Titanic founders


Mother Jane "Jeanie" Murdoch dies


Mary Agnes dies


Father Samuel Murdoch dies


Older sister, Margaret Elizabeth 'Peg' dies aged 91


Titanic TV series cashing in on James Cameron's soon to be released Titanic film portrays Murdoch shooting and suicide.


James Cameron's $200 million budget Titanic portrays Murdoch shooting and suicide.


20th Century Fox's Titanic becomes highest grossing film and wins 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture.

15th April

20th Century Fox executive vice president Scott Neeson presents £5000 cheque and tray to the Dalbeattie High School Murdoch Memorial Trust prizes but stops short of a full apology.



Director James Cameron admits Murdoch portrayal "probably a mistake" in Southampton.



Nephew Samuel Scott Murdoch dies


RR Auction release a private letter written in 1909 to a “Miss Nancy” in 1909 while William was serving as first officer aboard the Adriatic, expecting to make $6,000 in the auction.

4th April

RMS Titanic Inc announce they have recovered Murdoch's personal possessions from the wreck site, including his shoe brush, straight razor, buttons, long-johns and pipe.