Select Murdoch Miscellany
accounts over the years:
- Norse Origins for Murdoch
- The Murdochs of Cumloden in Galloway
- Murdochs in Scotland
- Reader Feedback – Robert Murdoch from Scotland to
- George Murdoch in the Canadian West
- William Murdoch on the Titanic
- Reader Feedback – Murdochs from Scotland to South
- A Broadside from Keith Murdoch
- PC Murdoch
Norse Origins for Murdoch
In the ninth century much of Scotland (as well as other
parts of Europe) were under attack from Viking raiders. Parts of
Scotland became part of Norway at this time, notably the Highlands and
Galloway in the southwest. Many Norse settled there,
intermarrying with the Gaels and in Galloway becoming the so-called
Those among these societies who had Norse ancestry may well have been
known as murchadh, “sea
warriors,” particualrly as the statistical evidence shows that the
largest incidence of Murdochs has been in Galloway and Moray where
there has been notable Norse settlement.
There is no positive proof of a Norse connection and so some think that
the surname Murdoch may simply have arisen to describe someone whose
trade was associated with the sea.
The Murdochs of Cumloden in
These Murdochs are said to trace their descent from one Murdoch, who
rendered yeoman service to Robert the Bruce in his hour of need.
In the spring of 1307, the King of the Scots was hiding in the Galloway
hill country with a few hundred followers while King Edward’s troops
beset all the passes.
Bruce caused his men to separate into small companies so as to make
subsistence easier. But he appointed a day when they were all to
muster at the hill now called Craigencallie on the eastern shore of
Loch Dee. Here, in a solitary cabin, dwelt a widow, the mother of three
sons, each by a different husband, and named Murdoch, Mackie and
The King arrived first and alone at the rendezvous. Weary and
half-famished, he asked the widow for some food and she gave him some
as it had been promised.
“From whom may that have been,” asked the King.
“None other than Robert the Bruce, “quoth the goodwife, “rightful lord
of this land, wha e’er gainsays it. He’s hard pressed just now,
but he’ll come through, sure enough.”
This was good news to the King who made himself known at once and was
taken into the house and sat down to the best meal he had eaten in
days. The three sons then returned and their mother straightway
made them do obeisance to their liege lord. They declared their
readiness to enter his service at once. The King, however, would
put their prowess as marksmen to the test before engaging them.
Two ravens sat together on a crag a bowshott off and the eldest son
Murdoch let fly at them and transfixed both with one arrow.
Mackie next shot a raven flying overhead and brought it to the ground
and the King was satisfied, although poor MacLurg missed his mark
Many years later, when the widow’s words had been fulfilled by Bruce
coming to his own and being acknowledged King of the Scots, he sent for
the widow and asked her to name the reward she had earned by her timely
“Just gie me,” she said, ” you wee bit hassock o’ land atween Palnure
and Penklin (two streams flowing into Wigtown Bay).”
The King granted her request. The “bit hassock,” being
about five miles long and three broad, was divided between the three
sons, from whom descended the Murdochs of Cumloden, the Mackies of
Larg, and the MacLurgs of Kiruchtrie.
Murdochs in Scotland
The table below shows the current distribution of the
Murdoch name in Scotland, according to telephone entries.
|Telephone Entries||Per 10,000|
The southwest coastline of Scotland, including Galloway,
still has the highest concentration of Murdochs.
Reader Feedback – Robert Murdoch from
Scotland to Massachusetts
I’m looking for
information on a Robert ‘Mordo’ Murdoch.
He was the son of Jackson Murdoch who was born in Strilingshire,
Scotland in 1663. Robert came through
Plymouth and died in Newtown, Massachusetts.
I did find a baptismal record in Ayr, Scotland. Any info
would help, just
wondering if you ran across anything related to them.
Roland Bechtel (email@example.com)
George Murdoch in
the Canadian West
George Murdoch had learnt his trade as a saddle and harness maker in
Chicago but had been forced to vacate that city after the Great
Fire. By 1883 he was in Winnipeg. He purchased there an ox
and wagon and set out for Fort Calgary, reaching the fort after ten
days’ trundling through hostile Indian territory.
He wrote in his diary that night:
“The view of the Rockies is
beautiful tonight. They seem about ten miles off, but are forty
The next day he built a shack outside the Mounties’
stronghold and hung a business sign: “Harness Maker.” His
customers were the Mounted Police. By living among the Blackfoot
Indians, he taught himself their language. They called him
George circulated the petition and raised the $100 that got the town
of Calgary incorporated. The election that followed had more
fistfights than speeches. When the dust settled, George was the
first mayor and they carried him shoulder high around the town in a
William Murdoch on the Titanic
William Murdoch was the officer in charge on the bridge when an iceberg
was spotted at 11:39pm on 14 April 1912. Murdoch is generally
believed to have responded by ordering “Hard a’starboard” and setting
the telegraph used to communicate orders to the engine room to “Full
Astern”. To no avail, because 37 seconds after the iceberg was
sighted, it was struck by RMS Titanic.
When the order was later given to abandon ship, Murdoch was in charge
of the starboard evacuation and was last seen attempting to launch one
of the collapsible lifeboats. It is not certain what became of
him, though by one account he was washed into the sea during the ship’s
final moments afloat. Some of the many film and TV depictions of
the sinking of the Titanic
have shown Murdoch committing suicide as the ship sank, although there
is no evidence that he did so.
There is a memorial in his honor in his home of Dalbeattie in Galloway.
A William Murdock from Belfast was also on the Titanic and he by some fortune did
survive. He claimed that he survived the sinking by jumping into
the water and then being “picked up” by a collapsible boat that he had
helped lower. But this was not thought possible and there must
have been some other chain of events which ended with him in a
Reader Feedback – Murdochs
Scotland to South Australia
great grandfather Scotsman James Murdoch
migrated to South Australia on the ship Trevelyan
in 1875 with his wife Emily and three daughters Emily 8, Lucy 3, and
babe in arms. Seven other children were born there in South
James next appeared in the 1880’s in Maitland
on the Yorke Peninsula with a business as a blacksmith and wheelwright.
He then sold everything and took up
which he did for the rest of his life.
father Colin was likely born at Gartincaber in Perthshire.
I’ve traced James’s ancestors back to a
Patrick Campbell of Dunderave and Inverchaggernay. Patrick’s
daughter Beatrix married a Murdoch.
Anne Tichborne (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A Broadside from Keith Murdoch
Sir Keith Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s father, was a
prominent Australian journalist who started the Murdoch newspaper
empire. He had been in London at the onset of World War One and
became irate at British treatment of him and his compatriots.
This broadside found its way to the desk of the Australian Prime
Minister of his day:
men are equalled only by their incapacity. Along the line of
communications, especially at Moudros, are countless high offficers and
conceited young cubs who are plainly only playing at war. What
can you expect of men who have never worked seriously, who have lived
for their appearance and for social distinction and self satisfaction,
and who are now called on to conduct a gigantic war? Kitchener now has a terrible task in getting pure work
out of these men whose motives can never be pure for they are
unchangeably selfish. Appointments to the general staff are made
from motives of friendship and social influence. Australians now
loathe and detest any Englishman wearing red.”
To many Scots PC (Police Constable) Murdoch, the fictional character in
the comic strip Our Wullie,
is “as weel kent as ony Murdoch!” Our
Wullie first saw light of day as a cartoon in The Sunday Post in 1936. PC
Murdoch has been keeping an eye on the wee rascal all these years.
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