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George Murray

PERTH NAMES. 1: Murray of Murray Street. By Cygnet.

murrayMURRAY of Murray-street-or General the Right Honourable Sir George Murray, G.C.E., to name him in full—was a figure of romance if ever there was one. No more colourful career could be imagined than that which fell to his lot. A handsome Scot. a dashing soldier, a gallant and able general, a wise politician, and a distinguished Cabinet minister, he was the close friend, confidant, and counsellor of the great Duke of Wellington in war as well as at Whitehall, and he was the man who, above everyone else, was instrumental in bringing the colony of Western Australia to life.

George Murray was born in Perthshire, the second son of a baronet, on February 2, 1772. At 17 he was an ensign in the army and before he was out of his teens had served in all that sanguinary fighting in Flanders which followed the outbreak of the French Revolution. At 21 for his meritorious services he was promoted lieutenant "with the rank of captain," and the following year was transferred to the staff of the Commander-in-Chief at the West Indies, to continue from that moment a "brass hat" for the remainder of his eventful life. His stay in the West Indies was brief, and the next year he was back in the old world fated for the next 30 years to lead what can only be described as a jack-in-the box existence, but one which would more than satisfy the hungriest aspirant for fame and honours.

Whether by chance or design Murray was always to be found where the fighting was thickest and danger a constant companion. He fought Napoleon, and Napoleon's generals and allies, on every battlefield and on every front. He was no sooner home from the West Indies in 1799 than we find him in Holland, badly wounded, and promoted Lieutenant Colonel. In 1800 he was sent to Ireland, but a few months later was dispatched post haste to Gibraltar to help in its defence. In 1801 he was as suddenly transferred to Egypt where he managed to be present at every engagement, the battles of Aboukir, of Rosetta, of Rhamanieh, as well as at the taking of Cairo and Alexandria.

With Wellington in Spain.

NAPOLEON'S dreams of Egypt and the East having been annihilated we find Murray in 1802 back in the West Indies as Adjutant General. In 1803 his efficiency caused his recall to the War Office in London; in 1804 he was sent to Ireland as Deputy Quartermaster General; in 1805 he was sent with the expedition to Hanover; in 1806 he was back in Ireland as Quartermaster General; in 1807 he was in the expedition which was despatched to Copenhagen to seize the Danish Fleet before it fell into Napoleon's hands; in 1808 he was appointed Quartermaster General to Sir John Moore. His appointment to Sir John Moore's staff way on the eve of that General's expedition to the Baltic Seaports, and it was after clearing up that area that Sir John Moore went to Spain. Murray was with him in all the fighting that took place prior to the famous retreat which ended with Sir John Moore's death in the moment of victory at Corunna. Strangely enough, side by side with Murray as he stood at Moore's graveside was General Darling—Darling of the Darling Ranges.

His services at, and in the hectic days preceding Corunna had brought him well merited recognition, and in 1809 he was promoted Colonel and appointed Quartermaster General to Wellington, who had succeeded Moore in Spain. He was present at the battle of Oporto, the passage of the Douro, at Talavera, Busaco, Fuentes d'Onoro, and Vittoria, before he was recalled to the War Office in 1811. In 1812 he was promoted Major General and sent to Ireland as Quartermaster General, but in 1813 Wellington had him back with him in Spain, where he was made a K.C.B. and again managed to be present at every engagement which preceded Napoleon's retirement to Elba. When that had been accomplished he was sent again to Ireland this time as Adjutant General, but he had hardly taken over the ottlee when, the same year (1814), he was dispatched to Canada as Commander-In-Chief. Even here, however, he was not destined to stay, for Napoleon chose to escape from Elba and Murray at once made a desperate dash back to Wellington's side, determined to be in at the death, Alas for him, he did not arrive until Waterloo had been fought and won, but he was solaced with his appointment as Chief of Staff to the Army of Occupation which was left in France pending the deliberations and decisions of the representatives of the Powers.

In the Cabinet.

As Chief of Staff of the Army of Occupation he was to have his first rest, for he remained there for three years, until 1818, when he returned to his homeland as Governor of Edinburgh Castle. He only held that post a year. however, for In 1819 he was chosen as Commandant of the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, an appointment which he held until 1824. Not that he just sat at a desk there, for in 1820 he was called to Oxford to receive the D.C.L. In 1823 he was elected to the House of Commons for Perth, and in 1824 was chosen a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1825, having in the years gone by held every post Iin the Irish Command, he went back there as Commander-In-Chief, vacating it in 1828 to become Secretary for the Colonies In the cabinet formed by his old chief and friend, the Duke of Wellington. The choice of Murray for that post was providential for Stirling, and for Western Australia.

For the first time Stirling found himself dealing with one who had some sympathy for him and for his aspirations. Murray was not only a fellow Scot; he came from the same county and was friendly with Stirling's people, and while It cannot be said that he showed Stirling any undue favouritism it can—and should—be said aloud that he gave Stirling all that he wanted, and that was the opportunity to prove his case for a Colony at the Swan River.

Like most of his other posts Murray only held cabinet rank for a year. In September, 1829, he was out of office, and in 1832 he was out of Parliament, for Perth rejected him at the next elections but whether that was because he had caused the new "bush town" in the antipodes to be called Perth is not clear. He was returned to Parliament again on another occasion for a brief period, but was subsequently defeated both at Westminster and Manchester. In the meantime he had been appointed Master General of Ordnance, and this high office he held until the year of his death. In 1841 he had been promoted General, and while In the cabinet a Privy Councillor. He died at 5 Belgrave Square, London, on July 28, 1846, leaving one daughter. Unfortunately Murray has left us no autobiographical record of his busy and adventurous life. This is regretted all the more when one sees the literary skill he displayed in the editing of Marlborough's dispatches from 1702 to 1712. He is remembered in Western Australia in Murray-street and the River Murray; but his greatest memorial is the Murray River separating Victoria and New South Wales, the longest river in Australia, some 2,400 miles in length, discovered and named by Captain Sturt in the very month in which Murray went out of offiee as Secretary for the Colonies, September 1829.

'Cygnet' - Cyril Bryan - West Australian 30 July 1938.

References and Links

'Cygnet' - Cyril Bryan - West Australian 30 July 1938.

Wikipedia page for George Murray.


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