The following is her account of the disastrous sinking of the Galway Castle on Thursday, 12th September 1918:
'At the outbreak of the Great War, my father, John Murray, who was intensely patriotic, had volunteered at once for service in the Army. My mother was unhappy about being so far from him and we had gone to live in England where we could at least see him from time to time.
By 1918 the war had dragged on for four years and my father had been badly wounded in action. Although he was attended by Sir William McEwan, the Royal Surgeon, he was suffering from kidney failure and was given only a matter of months to live.
It was decided that the family should return as soon as possible to South Africa, so that, in the event of widowhood, my mother would be near her sisters. While my father was awaiting discharge from Stobhill Hospital, Springburn, Scotland, we were told that we would not be able to travel with him, so passages were obtained for my mother and we [sic] three girls in another ship, which would be carrying disabled soldiers, and women and children. For security reasons a code name only was given for the ship.
Our party consisted of my mother, Winifred Katherine Murray (nee Nolan), myself aged 9, Phyllis aged 6, and the baby, Mabel, aged 18 months. We joined the ship at Plymouth, and were transported in a tender out to where the ship lay in the roadstead. As we drew near the ship I heard my mother say, ?Oh, it's the 'Galway Castle'?.
Although originally a passenger liner, 'Galway Castle' had been converted for trooping, so our accommodation in the 3rd class was rather Spartan. There were no cabins and we slept in large dormitories with rows of bunks, and with heavy rubberised curtains over the stairwell to prevent the enemy from seeing our lights at night. I had the top bunk with Phyllis on the bunk below me. My mother and Mabel were in bunks next to us.
Three days out of Plymouth, at 7 a.m., Mabel had been asking for her bottle of milk. However, when the stewardess brought it, the milk was too hot, so my mother went off to the bathroom to cool it a little. She was scarcely out of sight when there was a tremendous explosion and I was thrown up in the air striking my head on the deckhead. We had been torpedoed in the region of the engine room and there was a gaping hole in the ship's side. The lights went out and we were in utter darkness.
Phyllis and Mabel were very frightened and began to cry. I had always been a sensible child and knew we had to find our mother as quickly as possible. I collected our lifebelts and put them on the end of Mabel's pram. I quietened the other two children and got Phyllis to help me in calling 'Mummy, Mummy' at regular intervals so that our mother would be able to locate us as we made our way in the pitch dark to where I thought the stairs must be.
Suddenly Mummy appeared and took us, pram and all, up on deck where she hastily put us into our lifebelts, after which we went to the boat to which we had been allocated during boat drill. To our consternation, the boat was hanging by a single fall, the other having broken while the boat was being lowered. For some reason none of the boats had been lowered during boat-drill; had this been done, it might have shown up any faults in the pulleys or ropes, which could have been rectified in time to possibly save some of the lives, which were lost.
A ship's officer standing nearby told my mother she should make for one of the other boats. ?Which one?' she asked, 'Any one' was the reply as he pointed vaguely along the deck. To reach the other boats we had to negotiate a three-foot high section of the deck which had buckled upwards in the explosion. The pram had to be abandoned as we clambered over this obstacle. As we found places in a boat, a woman rushed up to my mother and pushed a baby into her arms, saying 'I've lost my son and must go back to look for him. Please take my baby and if I don't survive see she gets to her grandparents.'
So we were now five in our party, sitting in the lifeboat - my mother with a baby on each arm, and Phyllis and I on each side of her. We were lowered and as the boat reached the water the waves lifted it alarmingly, carrying it towards the stern of the ship where the propellers were now partly out of the water. The sea was rough and we shipped a lot of water. It was discovered that there was nobody in the boat who knew how to control it, or how to get it away from the ship's side. The sea began to swamp us, and suddenly the boat was dashed against the ship's side and broke up. I found myself in the cold sea.
In her haste on deck, my mother must have put my life-belt on the wrong way round for it kept pushing my face into the water instead of holding it back and up. I soon realised what was wrong and attempted to move the belt round to the correct position. But, in that rough sea, my child's hands could not keep a grip on the belt as I struggled to move it round and it slipped from my grasp. I could not swim, but I recalled my mother saying that one went down three times before finally drowning. As I went down instinct made me grab the first thing that my fingers touched and I clung on. It happened to be the leg of Mrs. McIndewar; I heard her say 'There's something on my foot' and a man's voice answering, 'Yes. It's a child, don't kick. I'll help you'.
In this way we came at last to another lifeboat and were pulled aboard. And there we stayed till 5 or 6 p.m. We were very cold, and thirsty, but could not open the water cask as the implements for doing so had been washed out of the boat. There seemed to be people aboard who could manage the boat, and a sailor said to me, 'Little girl, whatever you do, don't stand up. If you do you could easily fall back into the water, and we may not be able to rescue you again in this rough sea'. Two men talked to me. I imagine they were trying to keep my mind off what had happened. One was a sailor who had come out through the hole in the ship's side and was injured, judging by the bloodstained water in the bottom of the boat.
During the afternoon a woman died in the boat. She had been injured when a heavy water cask had been flung against her. A young baby was pulled out of the sea. And I was given the task of pumping its legs to try to revive it. In retrospect I think this may have been more to give me something to do, than with any real hope of resuscitating the baby, and that everyone knew it must have died long before we found it.
A warship was at last sighted. A shirt was waved on the end of a boathook to attract its attention. A signal flashed that they had seen us and the ship returned at great speed to pick us up. The Royal Navy Destroyer ['HMS Spitfire'] took us aboard and we were returned to Plymouth. Another little girl, Betty McIndewar, and I were put into the Captain's cabin off which there was a bathroom. We were undressed and bathed in warm water. I remember fighting off the steward who wished to bath us, saying 'I always bath myself', but he said 'I must do it, love, you are blue with cold and I have to rub your legs and arms to get the circulation going. I have a little girl at home just your age, and I often bath her, so don't worry about it'. The bathing over, we were dressed in the Captain's pyjamas (which, needless to say, swamped us) and put to bed, while our sodden clothes were whisked away to be washed and pressed.
Next morning the clothes were returned to us freshly laundered, so that we looked fairly respectable when we landed in Plymouth, except that I had no shoes, having lost mine in the sea. At Plymouth I was reunited with my mother who had been picked up by another Royal Navy Destroyer ['HMS Oriana'] and landed ahead of us. Phyllis had also been picked up but she was dead. The exact cause of her death was not known, but there was a heavy bruise across her forehead, and she may have been struck by something weighty. Mabel was never seen again. In her frantic state of mind, my mother had already sent a telegram to my father saying, 'Safe, but children lost'. It must have been a dreadful time for him.
When we had taken leave of my father, Phyllis had made quite a fuss and did not want to leave him. He had quietened her by telling her he would soon be with us once more; but Phyllis was not easily convinced. Perhaps, as is sometime the case with small children, she had a premonition that they would not meet again. Ironically in the circumstances, my father, who was at that time desperately ill, lived for a further 21 years.
In the press account of the sinking, the person being interviewed stated that the ship had gone down off the coast of Ireland. I would very much like to know exactly where it did sink. After the torpedo struck us, the ship was abandoned. It did not sink immediately but was towed some distance before the towline had to be cut and she finally sank.
From an interview with the 'Weekly News' - Saturday, September 21st, 1918:
I had a chat with little Margaret Murray, the nine-year-old survivor of the family, a serious eyed, grave looking little lass, and still betraying in her childish features some recollection of the horrors through which she had passed.
After we were all thrown into the water by the boat being smashed, Margaret explained, I came to the top ?. I shouted ?Help!? and saw a boat quite close to me. There was in this boat a wounded soldier whose leg was broken by the propeller?. He pulled me into the boat ?.. and then we went onto the destroyer ??[the 'Oriana']