Generation: C

John Murray

Born: 1835
Father: Donald Murray
Mother: Isabella Simpson


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[Picture] Moved to NZ 1863. Bank of New Zealand. A "Big Shot". Retired 1889. Died Australia (Bathurst).

There is a reference work re. John Murray of NZ by G.H. Scholefield "New Zealand in Evolution", 1909, Fisher Union, p252.

In 1884 the Bank of NZ on verge of catastrophe. J.M. got the Government of NZ to take on 2,000,000 preference shares. This saved the day. The state did not lose a penny.

Mr. John Murray, who had had 45 years experience of banking, conducted the negotiations on behalf of the bank. Writing to the Prime Minister (Mr. Seddon) he said on June 30th: "I wish to be permitted to give my honorable assurance (1) that the occasion is one of the gravest public urgency; (2) that by the measure I have proposed I am absolutely convinced that the State will not lose one penny, but will, on the contrary, prevent great loss to itself as well as to the community; (3) that by this measure the banking affairs of the country will be placed on a greatly improved footing for the future; (4) that if the Government finally determines to go on with the measure it should be put through today".

John Murray. The New Zealand Banker. 1835 - 1915

On the previous page to this, we saw John, with his new young wife, and his two younger brothers, waving goodbye from their ship to Donald and Isabella, to seek their fortune in New Zealand. John, after training in banking in his father's office had become a clerk at the Head Office of the Bank in Glasgow. John was confident, knowledgeable, ready for any job within his range of experience. He was just 28 years old - I blush a bit now when I recollect what I was like at 28!

Until I retired from medicine in 1961, John Murray was for me only a name among 33 first cousins who shared in the estate of China Bill in 1915. He had survived China Bill by a few months, and his executor, Donald, The Inventor, then in London in 1915, would inherit his share. And now, Kinsfolk, as a genealogist, I have to sink to a very low level, only for a short time I hope, for my early sources of information are derived from the cold print of cold obsolete books of authors whose bodies have also gone cold. My working notes record the sources, but I will spare you these!

In 1863, at age 27, he joined the Bank of New Zealand at Auckland. 1864, he became Manager of the Bank of Otago at Invercargill. 1866, rejoined Bank of N.Z. as Inspector. Then played an important part in the development of the Bank. General Manager on 24th October 1888. Later, became a director, but retired when the directorate was removed to London, and his association with the Bank ceases. In the years 1881-2-3-5 he had been warning the Bank about its too free lending policy. In 1883 he was liquidating bad assets for the Board. Nov. 1888, "breakdown in health and had six months leave for medical advice in London". His activities from 1888 to 1892 are not well noted, nor his movements.

Meanwhile in these years the financial state of the Bank was steadily worsening. And John was in retirement. G.H. Scholefield in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography wrote (Vol 2, p110-1): "When the banking crisis occurred in 1892, the Directors consulted Murray, and with their authority he approached the Government with a disclosure of the critical position of the bank. Unless assistance was forthcoming, he said, it would have to close its doors. The responsibility for devising a scheme of assistance devolved upon him. Share holders and directors accepted his advice, and Seddon, the Prime Minister, adopted the scheme as the basis of the banking measures of June 1894. M. Kennedy says that although Murray was out of the Bank at the time, the Directors and General Manager left the whole task to him.

When the Bank was re-established Murray retired in shattered health and spent the rest of his life in New South Wales. He paid several visits to Great Britain, and lived eventually at Bathurst, New South Wales, where he died on June 30th 1915. Murray had considerable literary gifts, and contributed occasionally to the press. He was a sincere philanthropist and associated himself with social movements in Auckland".

In a letter to Sneddon, the Premier, on 30th June, 1894, John said: "I wish to give my honorable assurance (1) that the occasion is one of the greatest public urgency (2) that by the measure I have proposed I am absolutely convinced the State will not lose one penny, but will, on the contrary, avert great loss to itself as well as to the community (3) that by this measure the banking affairs of the Colony will be placed on a greatly improved footing for the future, and (4) that if the Government finally determines to go on with the measure it should be put through TODAY".

R. Duthie, the very courteous and efficient Librarian at Auckland wrote: "I have checked through the lists of Brett's Auckland Almanac for the 1870s and 1880s and find no John Murray in connection with any of the following societies - religious, masonic, sporting, music, drama or even of the charitable societies. But he must have had an interest in art as both he and Mrs. Murray were honorary members of the Auckland Society of Arts, Mrs. Murray from 1880-1884 and her husband from 1886-1889. He was not on the City Council, nor was there any reference to him in Presbyterian circles, magazines, etc."

I have more information about John, alas, all of negative type, except the following from his niece, Ethel Elizabeth Murray Robertson: "When Uncle John was made General Manager of the Bank his hand-writing was so poor he bough a copy book and practiced writing".

But I cannot be doing with this bare bones type of biography!

These are curious dates about the Auckland Society of Arts! Where was Mrs. Murray when John died at Rocket Street, Bathurst, N.S.W.? There was a notice of death in the local press, but no obituary. There was a war raging, paper was scarce, journalists away on service. This catalogue of the activities of John Murray is completed by noting that there are two editions of a pamphlet by him in the Alexander Trumbull Library, Wellington, entitled "A description of the Province of Southland, New Zealand" in 1866. It obtained a 50 prize. A big sum then, and only three years after entering the country! The must have moved around a lot, and been a keen observer!

Of his domestic and private life I know nothing, but Mrs. Ethel Maxwell Robertson (born 1891) of 400, Southampton Street West, Hastings, N.Z. sent me one of his letters to her to read, and I now give it to you for your assessment. She was obviously his favourite niece.

[Letter omitted]

Last year I had a letter from Monsieur Lois Roulier, Jardinier, Territet, Switzerland which said "Au cimitiere de Territet se trouve seulement la tombe de Monsieur Frances Stewart Murray, decedé le 25 Avril 1930, a l'age de 87 ans". This "Monsieur" is a pardonable error for "Madame", owing to the similarity between Frances and Francis. If so, then she was born about April 1843, and was 20 years old when she married John Murray. She must at the time of her death have been staying with her son Donald at Territet.

Now, please look in the Family History Box at your parents' home for the splendid photo of John Murray, the N.Z. Banker. Then determine if it fits in with the facts of his career, with the solitary letter just quoted, and decide wherein he might be a dominant. Having studied John Murray I, John Murray II, and Donald Murray, the Provost, is a family pattern emerging? Not forgetting that these men were greatly influenced respectively by Ann Sutherland, Ann Matheson, Isabella Simpson, and Frances Stewart - as I am by Margaret Brown McLellan!

I'm pleased I got these last two lines into this paper!

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