Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Which David Murray was he?




The repetition of given names, especially naming first born sons after their father or grandfather, is a tradition with centuries of history behind it. I find it extremely  confusing, especially when trying to understand how the many different Murrays that scatter Hamilton’s history are connected.


Murray Street, Hamilton runs parallel to Beaumont Street to its east, neatly truncated at its northern end by Lindsay Street and south at Denison Street. The Scots Kirk, dedicated in 1887 and considered one of the finest pieces of church architecture in the Northern District, occupies the corner of Tudor and Murray Streets. Inside the Kirk are three stained glass windows – each a memorial to a man with the name David Murray. Were there three?


When Jeanette Muxlow contacted me after publication of my book, ‘Hidden Hamilton’ with an offer to share her family story, I resolved to get my head around this conumdrum. I also had help from local historian Peter Murray [1] who like Jeanette, is a member of the Murray clan.


DAVID MURRAY (1834-1908)


David Murray (1834 – 1908) is Jeanette Muxlow’s great grandfather. I call him the first David Murray. He was important to Hamilton because he was one of Hamilton’s first Aldermen.




Gregson Park Memorial Gates at the Tudor Street entrance, 2014
David Murray’s name is among the six Aldermen of the inaugural
Hamilton Municipal Council inscribed on the gates


David Murray was elected Mayor of Hamilton on a number of occasions, serving the Council for over 20 years. 






Portrait of David Murray, Mayor of Hamilton Municipal Council, 1876-1880
This portrait is a digitised copy of an original oil painting
Photograph courtesy Newcastle Region Library



David Murray was born in Cumnock, Scotland. He went to work in the coal mines, but emigration and a better life were clearly on this young man’s mind. After a short time in America around 1852, he returned home, only to set sail on the ‘City of Sydney’ for Melbourne, Australia in search of gold. It is known that David and his brother Patrick (Peter) spent some time in the Araluen/Captain’s Flat area of southern NSW. Then, David returned to his coal mining roots, finally settling in ‘Old Borehole’, as Hamilton was then known, and finding work in the AA Company’s D Pit.


Like many industrious workers of his time, David Murray bought a block of land in 1852 and built a cottage at 70 James Street. In 1853 he married Ellen Miller, with whom he had 11 children – 4 of whom died.





David and Ellen Murray, with two of their children
Photograph courtesy Newcastle Region Library



When Hamilton Council was instituted in 1872, David Murray’s house at 70 James Street became the temporary venue for early Council meetings. A room was rented to Council for three shillings per week. Read about The Making of Hamilton here.





The first Hamilton Municipal Council Chambers 70 James Street, Hamilton, 
home of David Murray
Photograph courtesy Newcastle Region Library



Tragically, Ellen Murray was killed in 1877 at the age of 41, when visiting the property of her brother George Miller (thought to be near Teralba). As land was being cleared, a burning tree fell on Ellen. Over thirty years later, she was to be memorialised in a stained glass window in the Scots Kirk, with her husband David.





Two of ten wall-height stained glass memorial windows in Scots Kirk, Hamilton [2]
On the right is the memorial window for David and Ellen Murray,
showing King Solomon at worship




Despite his terrible loss, life had to go on for David and his seven children. At some point, he must have left his work in D Pit. Jeanette Muxlow says that David was involved in many business ventures. With George Donald, also a pioneer of Presbyterianism, David Murray was one of the first communicants of Scots Kirk (then called Hamilton Presbyterian Church). 




A quick diversion. George Donald [3] was Hamilton’s first Mayor, serving three terms, and Donald Street in Hamilton is named for him. He played a major role in establishing the Scots Kirk building where it is today, and a large plaque on the southern wall honours his work. Read about George Donald here.



David’s brother Patrick (Peter) built a larger home for his brother next door to his first house, at 72 James Street.





72 James Street, the second home of David Murray, still stands today (2015)
Originally named ‘Cumnock’ after his birthplace in Scotland,
no evidence of the nameplate remains



In 1881, David Murray married a widow, Mrs Flora Ann Spicer, whom he had known from the Hamilton Presbyterian Church. Flora already had two sons, and together, she and David had three more children.



David Murray must have had exceptional physical energy and endurance. Jeanette writes:

‘In 1883, in partnership with his brother Patrick (Peter), he bought land at Morisset Point on Lake Macquarie (this is the spot where Murrays Beach Residential Community is today, south of Swansea). If you go for a walk to the northern end of the picnic area, and go just beyond the fence, there is evidence of old mine workings. There are rail lines and wagon wheels still there. Mum and Aunty Betty used to tell the story of how David would attend church at Hamilton on a Sunday morning and then walk to the mine and spend the week living there, and walk back to Hamilton on a Friday.’



Google Maps tells me that if one were to undertake that 28 kilometre walk on today's roads, it would take almost 6 hours.



There is a second stained glass window in Scots Kirk – this one in memory of David and Flora Murray.





Two of ten wall-height stained glass memorial windows in Scots Kirk, Hamilton
On the left is the memorial window for David and Flora Murray, showing Jesus receiving water at the well from a Samaritan woman



So both of these tall windows are in memory of the same man, honouring his first and second wives.



DAVID MURRAY (1864-1926) [4] ‘David’s Davie’


There is a third memorial window for a David Murray, high above the choir gallery, reached by a narrow wooden staircase. David Murray (1864-1926) is the son of David Murray and his first wife Ellen, and was known as ‘David’s Davie.’ Nicknames were commonly used to distinguish boys who had been given the same first name as their father.



While beginning his working life as a blacksmith down the south coast at Bulli, David Murray quickly made his way up in the world. Returning to Newcastle, he became a ship’s chandler or provisioner. He was in business in a general store with his brother Thomas. Like his father before him, he too became a Council Alderman (1897), and later Mayor – of Carrington, where he lived with his wife Louisa and their four children. David owned properties in Carrington and Lambton, and held company directorships.



This David Murray is one of the men we have to thank, in a way, for the institution of the building society, and our home loan system. He helped found the organisation that came before our building societies of today – ‘The Newcastle and District Starr-Bowkett Society’, and was a director. That company later became ‘The Newcastle Permanent Building Society’. He wrote that as a result of establishing the building societies, many hundreds of people were able to secure homes, and three quarters of a million pounds had been advanced, free of interest. 




David and Louisa Murray, with their two sons
Photograph from the collection of Peter Murray




David Murray stood for the National Party in the 1925 State elections. His manifesto    leaves us in no doubt about his passion for building societies – part of it reads:


‘I have advocated all my life that every working man should OWN HIS OWN HOME, and it was on account of holding such strong views that I did put my whole life and energy, and the best that was in me, to make the Societies the success they are today’. [5]




Sadly, the election campaign worsened his already ill health, and he died the following year, aged 62.



DAVID MURRAY (1862-1929) ‘Peter’s Davie’


I thought I’d finished writing this story, when I discovered yet another David Murray. Patrick (Peter) Murray has cropped up in this post a couple of times, as the brother of the first David Murray. He too had a son called David. To distinguish him from his cousin David Murray (who was known as ‘Davie’s David’), this one was known as ‘Peter’s Davie’.  He is the great grandfather of local historian Peter Murray, my inestimable reference point and guide in Hamilton history. Peter tells me he believes that Murray Street was named for Patrick (Peter) Murray, whose home was where the Commonwealth Bank building stands today in Beaumont Street, Hamilton. 



David Murray (1862-1929) was also a well known Hamilton businessman. Originally a cabinet maker, he owned a number of furniture/furnishing businesses in Hamilton, Newcastle and Wallsend. His businesses included funeral directing, a branch later successfully developed as a full time enterprise by one of his sons, James Murray. It still proudly bears its founder's name, David Murray Funerals - 'a family business since 1884'. David Murray owned and stabled racehorses. Great grandson Peter Murray tells me he loved a flutter. 





David and Jane Murray, with one of their six sons, and employees outside Murray’s Furniture Warehouse, corner of Tudor and Webster Streets, Hamilton
Photograph courtesy Newcastle Region Library



Hamilton’s early history is rich with examples of individuals who have bettered themselves, grown families, established businesses and forged civic institutions. Of course, none is without flaws. Yet, improving their own lot seems to have been inextricably linked to improving their communities. Each fuels the other. Something to ponder, there.





Rose window in Scots Kirk, Hamilton in memory of  David and Louisa Murray
Dedicated 6 January, 1945
Photograph by Matthew Ward




The Scots Kirk is open to the public on Wednesdays 12.00 noon to 2.00 pm.





Acknowledgements

Thank you to Jeanette Muxlow for sharing her family history, and to Peter Murray for additional historical and family history information. Thank you to the Scots Kirk Presbyterian Church, Hamilton for information and allowing photographs.



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[1] Peter Murray 2006: From Borehole to Hamilton Jubilee 1848-1927, Peter Murray, Newcastle.
[2] The stained glass windows in the Scots Kirk Presbyterian Church, Hamilton, NSW were designed by John Radecki, of the Sydney firm John Ashwin and Co.
[3]George Donald fought successfully to establish Hamilton Presbyterian parish with its own minister, independent of Newcastle. On a trip to England, he lobbied the Directors of the AA Company and secured agreement to exchange the site of the old Presbyterian Church in Denison Street for the current half acre site on the corner of Murray and Tudor Streets. The foundation stone for the new church, modelled on the design of Dunfermline Abbey in Scotland, was laid on 29 January, 1887. George Donald died three weeks later on 18 February 1887, aged 56. Donald Street is named for him. He and his wife Margaret raised 10 children.

[4] Information on David Murray (1864-1926) provided by email from historian Peter Murray.
[5] Election manifesto from the collection of Peter Murray.