I’ve been reading many of your posts here and on Encyclopedia Titanica for quite some time, but embarrassingly have had nothing to contribute until now. Inger, thank you for your tireless efforts to share fresh information that’s otherwise seemingly impossible for common people like me to find. My degree in history gets dustier every year; I miss research terribly, and very eagerly digest the quality insight that you so considerately provide. I look forward to reading Titanic Valour
! And Dan, please do keep at all those great updates coming to williammurdoch.net; I’ve been checking your site religiously!
Two questions have been gnawing at me, and I would greatly appreciate any thoughts that this group might be able to offer:
1) Was the letter to Miss Nancy possibly written in July of 1907, instead of 1909?
Murdoch writes, “We have had a wretched time . . . since we left Liverpool . . . everybody + everything strange at our new port on this side.” It seems odd that he would still refer to Southampton as a strange new port two full years after the White Star Line moved its main departure point there from Liverpool in June 1907. Just one month after the move, however, it would be an entirely reasonable thing to say. Please forgive my tediousness here, but upon inspecting the letter’s date, the last digit of the year does appear to resemble a rushed “7,” with a small flourish marking the start of the horizontal stroke, which then sweeps upward and then downward to form a big loop, instead of the tight corner you’d find in a neater “7.” I don’t think someone would try to establish a starting flourish on a “9,” but I suppose it could just represent a stray flick of the wrist. In combination with Murdoch's comment about the new port, however, I can't help thinking this letter was written in 1907. You can mouse over the letter’s date to see it in very sharp detail here: http://www.icollector.com/William-Murdoch_i12268830
Inger, if you’re able to provide any information about this Watkins family or Mr. Owen (perhaps he was a fellow crew member?), I would of course love to get the additional context around this letter! Insight into Murdoch’s personality would also be most helpful; I read some of your posts about the subject on Encyclopedia Titanica, and thought they were fascinating. I find his character so much more difficult to grasp than the other Titanic officers’.
Dan, regarding your question about Murdoch not mentioning his wife in the letter, the 1907 date would of course place the letter two months before their marriage - I think that probably doesn't really address your point, though. But would it be unreasonable to correspond with an acquaintance without mentioning a fiancée? The letter, after all, seems pretty informal, what with all the abbreviations and the postscript. I regretfully don’t know the answers to questions like these.
2) This Miss Nancy inevitably got me thinking about the woman that the New York Tribune referred to as Miss Harding, a.k.a. “the weeping woman”:
“…as did the 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.”
The PDF of the article is here, for anyone interested: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030214/1912-04-21/ed-1/seq-1.pdf
. Assuming this reporter is correct about the woman’s name, does anyone know if research ever turned up a “Harding” on some branch of Murdoch’s family tree, or perhaps in other materials, such as correspondence?
Many apologies for the lengthiness of this post, and thank you for any thoughts or contributions you might be able to lend!