RLM: Epistle 1:
Our direct Murray ancestors were a quiet, modest, hard-working, serious lot. The Murray collaterals, with whom I am not dealing in this letter, merit attention for their literary, banking, ecclesiastical, military, inventive and farming activities. They were a colourful lot, yet none amongst them has got down to writing up their history.
True, Donald Murray, 'The Provost' (1805-1872) has written a splendid diary of his tours of Sutherland around 1855-9, and William Murray Goodwin of 10, Riverside Drive, Manotak, near Ottawa (born 1886) has given a pedestrian account of the Nova Scotia Branch, but he fails to give colour and life to the whole. He is a retired mining engineer of high ability, now aged 85, and has not acknowledged the "Diary of John Matheson" which I sent him months ago!
So, unless someone breaks into print soon, I'll have to write them up myself!
The Murray Origins! Henry Whyte, a serious historian, in "The Scottish Clans", 1925, ascribes the descent of the Murrays to Freskin, a Fleming who settled in Scotland in the reign of David I (1124-1153), and whose grandson assumed the designation of "de Moravia" in consequence of his large territorial possessions in the Province of Moray.
Donald Murray, B.A. Auckland, M.A. Sydney, M.I.E.E London (1865-1945), my second cousin, of whose life I only recently became aware, was a journalist, agricultural student, an inventor of telegraph systems of high merit, and finally a Philosopher! In 1939 he published the first of a projected series of six volumes of a work to be entitled "The Philosophy of Power". He was then aged 74! About my age! Ought to have known better! In a biographical preface to his book he wrote thus about himself:
Member of the Murray Clan: a turbulent German tribe in Moravia, afterwards in the Black Forest. Also known as the Catti, and mentioned as such by Tacitus. The Romans got tired of the Murrays and drove them out of Germany in the time of Nero, A.D. 60. They went down the Rhine, then sailed to the North of Scotland, where they made friends with the Scottish King and settled in Sutherlandshire and around the Moray Firth. In modern times some of these Northern Scottish peasant farmers came to Glasgow where they developed into bankers. One of them, John Murray, emigrated to New Zealand in 1863, and ultimately became Head of the Bank of New Zealand.
This last-named, John, was the father of the Philosopher, of course!
Well, Claire, I raised my eyebrows when I read this serious stuff about OUR ancestors! Then I looked inside the cover to see that the book was from the National Central Library, and I was only the second borrower since 1939!
An historian, slightly younger than the above Donald, was Alexander Murray III, of Inchure (1876-1965) (C). He "had all the Murray Family history in his head", said the lady Registrar at Rogart to me. He knew every stone, hedge, tree, path and field in Strath Fleet. Also, he had once read a book which was at the time 150 years old, and got the above story in it! Inchure has been searched for the book: it is missing!
Alexander III asserted that these early Murrays came to Sciberscross on the River Brora, in Sutherland. There is an early Murray gravestone by the river's edge, near a wall, with the initials "A.M." of one of his forebears. From there, our Murrays came due South to Aberscross, above the mouth of the River Fleet. Then a certain William Murray I managed to dig in at Inchure, in the tiny clachan or hamlet of Acheilidh, on the South side of the Fleet, to be succeeded in turn by his son William II and then by his grandson William III. Traditionally, the Murrays of Aberscross had black hair and red beards!
But Inchure is a visible reality today, and although a bit freshened up, is still in the possession of a descendant of its early owners.
RLM. The Murrays. And then the Mackays:
The traditional history of our Murrays begins here with a Map Reference. O.S. 1 Inch to the mile. Dornoch. Sheet 22. 78.2; 09.8. This reference denotes a very tiny rectangle, faintly marked on the top edge of the map, and only a few yards from the North Bank of the famous salmon River Brora. The rectangle represents a small ancient cemetery, with a recently erected 6 foot high wall. The site is one of quiet beauty, and the nearest farm is 1/2 mile to the N.W. It is believed there was at one time a priest's cell by the walls, but all trace of it has gone. There was, too, a baptismal font at one period, but some early vandal threw it into the river. My suggestion to Alex Sutehrland (whose mother was a Murray) that he might seek for it in the river has met with a negative response.
Inside the walls are many flattened gravestones, some only just visible, none with decypherable inscriptions. Alex Murray III, (1876-1965) our family historian, averred that this cemetery, which is named Sciberscross, "is stiff with Murrays", but he did not claim them as his direct ancestors.
Sir Robert Gordon (page 106/7) describes a foray into Strath Broray in the year 1542 by Donald Mackay of Strathnaver, "who took a prey of goods". He was opposed by John Moray of Aberscross and others. They overtook and surprised Mackay at Aldy-Ne-Beth (Airidh-sleibh? three miles west of the cemetery). It was apparently a pretty bloody affair, "diverse others of the bravest men in Strathnaver being slain". Were all the dead buried at Sciberscross? We will never know!
Gordon makes mention often of the Murrays of Aberscross (2 1/2 miles East of Rogart). The name is probably (after Mackay and Sutherland) the most common one around Rogart today. The local Historian of Strath Brora, Mr. A.F.M. Maclennan of Hight Street, Brora, cannot add to our scanty knowledge of the cemetery, nor do I know of any booklets on the subject.
All members of our family visiting Rogart should visit Sciberscross, and also Aberscross, where, traditionally the earliest Murrays landed after being driven out of the Province of Moray (i.e. the counties of Nairn, Banff, and Moray) in the 11th and 12th centuries. Cairns and hut circles of ancient date abound everywhere along the road, and on the hillsides - probably early Pictish settlements.
So much for our Murray tradition!