William McMaster Murdoch was senior officer of the watch when Titanic struck an iceberg. It is generally believed that his decisions resulted in the fatal collision. Murdoch lost his life when the Titanic went down.

William McMaster Murdoch came from one of Britain’s larger seafaring families, his father and his grandfather both had been master mariners in sail in the deep water trade. Other relatives also became captains on sailing vessels and later on steamers.

Murdoch started his career at sea on sailing ships as well but moved on to steamers in 1899, when he joined the White Star Line. White Star Line was the trade name of the Oceanic Steam Navigations Company which had been founded in 1869 by Thomas Henry Ismay. Ismay was a Solway Man from Maryport on the English side of the Firth, Murdoch had grown up on the Scottish side. – The White Star Line kept many traditions of sailing ships such as signing on the officers as mates, although they were usually referred to as officers.

Especially the Titanic film that premiered in December 1997 oder January 1998 (depending on the country), started a controversy around Murdoch’s role and actions during the sinking of the Titanic. In the film it is shown that a passenger bribes Murdoch to make sure that the passenger will get a seat in the lifeboat, and shortyl after that scene, Murdoch shoots himself after he had shot a passenger. Especially in the UK, the media started a campaign that only ended when 20th Century Fox apologized for portraying Murdoch this way and donated £ 5,000 to the Murdoch Memorial Prize, for which it is competed for annually in Murdoch’s home town.