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Fireman survived Titanic disaster

In Rookwood cemetery, located in Sydney Australia is the grave of William John Murdock who emigrated to Australia after surviving the sinking of the Titanic.

The grave of William John Murdock at Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney. Photo: Encyclopedia Titanica.

Born in Cumberland England in 1874, he was the son of Irish immigrant parents, Nathaniel Murdock and Anne McMaster. He became a fireman and went on to marry Catherine Robson in 1901. The couple had four children with the youngest dying at only a few months old.

On March 29, 1912 Murdock signed on to the Titanic as a fireman for the delivery trip from Belfast to Southampton, from where her maiden voyage would begin. It was a short trip but obviously enough to convince him to sign up on April 6 for the long voyage to America. With a young family to support, working as a fireman or stoker onboard the famous luxury cruise ship, he could look forward to monthly wages of 6 pounds.

He was one of 163 stokers that would keep the fires burning on the Titanic, right up to its last days above water. Murdock's was a skilled job where he had to feed just the right amount of coal into the flames to keep the ship at the required speed.

William John Murdock. Photo: Encyclopedia Titanica

He toiled in the depths of the huge ship and his job was often performed stripped to the waist because of the amazing heat emitted by the large furnaces. More than 600 tonnes of coal a day were needed to propel the Titanic across the Atlantic.

On the night of April 14, 1912 most of the passengers and crew weren't aware there was anything wrong after the ship hit the iceberg, until the stokers could no longer feed the coal into the furnaces and the engines stopped.

Amidst the chaos of getting people into lifeboats and the Titanic slowly descending into its watery grave, it is possible William made it to collapsible lifeboat D. This may have been as part of the crew or as one of the very few survivors plucked out of the freezing waters of the Atlantic after the ship sank. There is no hard evidence, but he did survive.

Collapsible lifeboat D as it approached the Carpathia, that rescued the surviving passengers and crew of the Titanic.

After the devastation of losing 76 per cent of his fellow crew members, not to mention the numbers of passengers, Murdock headed back to Belfast and his family. He continued to work on the sea up until the 1920s. During that time the Murdock family emigrated to Sydney. He worked on ships between Newcastle and Sydney.

William died on July 1, 1941 followed by Catherine on March 22, 1965 and they are now buried together.


* 'William John Murdock', Encyclopedia Titanica, accessed 28th March, 2022, William John Murdock : Titanic Crew (

* 'Titanic Crew', Titanic Facts, accessed 3rd April, 2022, Titanic Crew • Titanic Facts

* 'Titanic's Unsinkable Stoker', BBC News, accessed 3rd April, 2022, Titanic's unsinkable stoker - BBC News

* Collapsible D, Titanic Wiki Fandom, accessed 3rd April, 2022, Collapsible D | Titanic Wiki | Fandom

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