Generation: B

Donald Murray

Born: 1805 Died: 1872
Father: John Murray, II
Mother: Ann Matheson

Isabella Simpson


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Born at Rhaoine. Became Chamberlain and then Provost of the Royal Burgh of Rutherglen. A splendid fellow. See the Diary of his tours in Scotland in 1855. I have written him up elsewhere. His modern representative is Dr. Molly Johnstone, 1, Dalkeith Road, Joppa, Edinburgh.

Bank agent, Rutherglen. At first City of Glasgow Bank, which failed in 1878, seven directors going to prison. Afterwards Commercial Bank of Scotland (They bought over the building). Provost of Rutherglen for years 1864-1869. Died of Apoplexy. Buried Southern Necropolis.

Molly Johnstone:

Started as apprentice in Turkey Red Dye works at Barrowfield with his Uncle. Then "afterwards" engaged as Dyer in Dalmarnock Dye works for 18 months, with Lancaster, Duncan and Co., when they failed. Then (before 1837) William Stirling and sons engaged him as manager of Turkey Red Dyeworks at Dalquhurn, Vale of Leven, where he remained for 16 years.

He left William Stirling and Co and built a new dyeworks and printing works at Clydesdale, Rutherglen, under the firm of Brain and Murray, for four years (i.e. after 1847).

Afterwards Mr. Brain got afraid when bad times cam on and left the country. Donald Murray losing his money through the mis-management of Mr. Brain and being the ?? Tain Man. Afterwards he got an agency from the City of Glasgow Bank and on Oct 10th 1849 at 14, Main Street, Rutherglen, where he carried on business and where all his sons were engaged as clerks when starting out in the world.

1853. Appointed Collector of Poor Rate, Rutherglen.

His four sons were all born at Dalquhurn, between 1837 and 1847.

More of the Murrays

Donald Murray, "The Provost"

At the bottom of a page in the Bible of John Murray II are the following lines in his own handwriting, thus:

John Murray, Ausdale Family. 1805, 1808, 1812, 1814, 1816, 1818, 1819, 1821, 1823, 1826. Dd. Ann..........................................Elspie, Wm. Janet

"D." represents Donald, the first-born, and Janet (my grandmother) the youngest, and by 21 years! John II, busy around the croft all day, had apparently forgotten the order of birth and maybe the names of some of the intervening eight of his family! Later on in a letter of 1863 John spelt his name as Murray, and his croft as Asdle!

Now, Dear Reader, a unique request from a genealogist! Break off reading this Epistle and turn to reading "Donald Murray's Account of his Three Tours in Sutherland, in the years 1855, 1859 and 1863". Have your map of Sutherland by you as you follow his journeys. You'll have some 41 days in his company, visiting his old childhood haunts, meeting his friends, having perhaps a drink with them, hearing his remarks on the ever-changing scenes in the Highlands. A fine diary, written by a modest, competent, observer. You'll say with me: "There's a real MAN! I could travel far with him". And don't condemn his spelling! He was bi-lingual, Highland, and left school at 13 years of age! I've built up a clear picture of him in my mind now, in his 50th year. Have you? Now for his earlier years!

"The Provost's" parents, John Murray II of Inchure and Ann Matheson of Brea, were married on 27/3/1804 at Blarich in Strath Fleet, and took over a croft at Rhuaoine (Rymie) some five miles up-stream from Rogart. Donald was born in 1805, i.e. after a very proper interval! A sister, Ann, in 1808, and a brother, George, 28/8/1810, followed. Donald would appear to have attended a little school at Muie, 2 miles downstream, in the winter 1811/1812.

His parents certainly occupied Rhuaoine through 1811 as sub-tenants under Gordon, the local big sheep farmer (Dunrobin Papers). Rent 3. In 1812 another entry in the Dunrobin Papers shows them at Acheilidh, with the widow Ann Matheson. Rent 1 4/-. I think this represents a smaller crofting about a mile South or South West of Rhuaoine. Sandy Sutherland, my third cousin at Lairg, affirms that these two different croft names, and different rents, indicate that the parents and their three children were twice evicted then. The Dunrobin papers show no tenancies of Murrays in 1813 onwards. Inchure, the other Murray croft in Strath Fleet, at Acheilidh, continued to be held by Alexander, uncle of the Provost.

Donald's parents are then noted as being at Cregnachlachul, where three more children were born, between 19th October 1812 and 7 January 1817. (John, Helen and Catherine). This was indeed a God-forsaken place, and empty, barren, treeless hillside a few hundred yards North of Aisdale. My two London grandsons, Robert and Andrew, found some ruins there which may have been their shelter. (Scottish Register Office Communication). If Donald went to school from there it would mean a four mile walk each way. Life up there must have been hard indeed for all. Donald's Tour includes no happy memory of Cregnaclachul.

The next event is the exciting one recorded in the Diary of Sergeant John Matheson (Donald's Uncle) in June 1818, namely the arrival in Glasgow of Donald's parents, with Donald and five other children. They remained in that city until 20th May 1820, probably staying with the Sergeant and his kindly wife. She Sergeant had a house by his works, with candles, coal and soap and 500 per year then. Meanwhile, Donald acquired another sister, Margaret! How did the family reach Glasgow? By cart to Invergordon and then ship to Granton, or by cart all the way? God knows! And how back again?

But Donald did not return to the North. He saw the industries of the city, coal, iron, shipping, cotton, tobacco, and in 1819 became apprenticed to his uncle, John Matheson, then age 47, in Barrowfield Turkey Red Dyeworks. I assume it was a five year apprenticeship and that Donald worked real well at his trade, for he was appointed Manager of the Turkey Red Dyeworks at Dalmarnock, the firm being Lancaster, Duncan and Co. He held the post for 16 months, when the firm failed, in 1826. (Dr. Molly Johnstone).

Then his opportunity came, and he was appointed Manager of the Dyeworks of William Stirling and Sons, a very old, well-established firm at Dalquhurn, near Dumbarton, in the Vale of Leven. This period lasted from about 1826 till about 1842 and must have been a happy one.

I have no record of his hobbies, pastimes, sports or social activities there. He would have a comfortable house near the works, with the usual perquisites, but, like the Laird of Cockpen, "He needed a wife, His braw house to keep" while his mind was taken up with the business of the day. He found on in Miss Isabella Simpson, a daughter of Robert Simpson, of Nairn, who came to Glasgow as a joiner, and Margaret Malcolm of Balfron. (Incidentally Isabella's sister became the grandmother of John Logie Baird, the television expert).

At Dalquhurn, John and Isabella established their family:

24 Dec. 1835, John, the New Zealand Banker. Died 1915. 1840. Robert Simpson Murray. Died 19/2/1922. Glasgow. George William Murray. Died 21/3/1923. New Zealand. 8/3/1847. James Ure Murray. Died New Zealand. 1929. and also an Alexander Murray, mentioned in Donald's Tour of 1859. I cannot locate him. There may have been a daughter, but I am not sure.

These were busy years. Donald now knew everyone in the Turkey Red Industry. He was in frequent touch with his uncle, John Matheson, who was prospering in Glasgow. His wife, Isabella, was a bit gayer than her husband, and equally generous. He had taken her up North once anyway (Helen Buchanan) probably in 1838, to see his parents (Tour Diary, p2). She enjoyed keeping open house, and Donald's financial affairs were prospering.

This page seems to me to be stuffed full of facts, but you will admit that I must put all of them on record, now! No one had gathered them before, and no one is likely to question the truth hereafter. But, as the compiler of these notes I am subject to no law except that of finding out the apparent truth, I am, none the less, free to use my imagination where and when I wish, consistent with the evidence. I propose to use this privilege on the next page!

New Year's Day (Ne'er day) has always been a great day with Scottish folk. In my First Epistle to you, Page 29, I described the scene in the wee croft Aisdale on First January 1871. But Ne'er day in 1839 was a fine one too!

There was Donald, age 34 and on the top of his form, 13 years established with his firm, well salaried, living in a real, well built stone house, with his wife, Isabella, happily pregnant again. All modern comforts were there. Their first-born, John, age 4 (the N.Z. Banker-to-be) was running about excited by the prospect of visitors expected any moment.

Living with them until he could get lodgings for himself nearby was Donald's youngest brother William, (1823-1902). On 26th November 1823 he had become apprenticed to William Stirling and Co., the document being signed by William Stirling himself, by Donald and by young William. The original is today in the possession of William Campbell Murray of Accrington, Lancs. - a grandson of the apprentice.

Some years previously Donald had found a place in the same firm for his young brother John, now age 27 (19/12/1812-1852). John (call him The Dyer) had married a local girl just a few days before Christmas, and they were having only a short holiday, for it was winter, and in any case Jean Watt, his wife, was already expecting her first child to arrive about the 8th May. Her hopes were fulfilled!

I doubt whether Donald's other young brother, George, would be present - you had better know about him! George, born at Rhuaoine on 28/8/1810 had gone South very early. He had become, probably, a shop assistant, and on 26/8/1836 he married a Glasgow girl Jean Glass (her mother was a Miss Brewster from Perth). Their union was blessed by a son, George, born at Barrhead on 3/2/1837, and a daughter, Jean, on 9/4/1840. She died 27/5/1926, aged 86. That family sailed from Greenock for U.S.A. on 11/4/1847, the father becoming a druggist (probably kept a general store) and living at 315 Sandwich Street, Windsor, Ontario, Canada. The father died 3/11/1869, and the son sometime before 1915, for, unlike his sister Jean, he did not share in China Bill's estate.

I doubt whether Donald's young sister Margaret would get down from Glasgow. She, age 21, would be busy courting with John McLachlan, the ship-builder. The other sister, Helen, living at Rutherglen (born 30/12/1814) and married with four children was probably absent from the party. But Donald would know all about her.

Anyway, there was a good gathering around Isabella's table that day. She would provide "high tea" with lots of meat or fish, soda scones, oatcakes, toast, butter and jam and currant bun. There would not be much strong drink as yet, for William was only 15, and the three brothers had been warned by their father, Iain mor, about the ways in which the Devil could tempt one. The brothers knew Gaelic, but used the English throughout their talk. They had the latest news from Aisdale, for the old folks were very active and young Janet was a good correspondent. But we must leave the party now - it has been a happy day for all.

On 19th February 1952, R.A. Peel read a paper before the Scottish Section of the Dyers and Printers Association. A paragraph in it ran thus: "Stirlings, in 1841, followed by other firms, adopted the indoor drying system of Steiners, and largely dispensed with the Highlanders who had worked only in the summer months, returning to their homes in winter. This led to Irish immigrants settling in the Vale".

In 1841 did Donald see the writing on the wall? Amalgamations and take-overs were occurring in the industry. Was trade declining? There was great competition from the Germans and the French. Anyway, somewhere around 1842 Donald left William Stirling and Sons, and built a new dyeworks and printing works at Clydesdale, Rutherglen. The new firm carried on as Brain and Murray for four years. Afterwards "Mr. Brain got afraid when bad times came on and left the country. Donald Murray lost his money through the mismanagement of Mr. Brain, and being the Tain (sic) Man". (Dr. Molly Johnstone). A paragraph in the Dictionary of New Zealand, approved of by the Provost's grandson (the Inventor) said: "Donald Murray had dyeworks in Glasgow until the financial panic of 1848". Molly Johnstone wrote: "Afterwards (10/10/1849) he got an agency from the City of Glasgow Bank at 14 Main Street, Rutherglen, where he carried on the business and where all his sons were engaged as clerks when starting out in the world. On 28th November 1853 he was appointed Collector of Poor Rate". My Lancashire notes suggest that after young William finished his training he moved to a factory in Bridgton, Glasgow, possibly to Donald's one.

The next event of which we have knowledge in Donald's life was the receipt of a message from the dyeworks at Dalquhurn in 1852 stating that his younger brother John, then a widower, had been killed in a works accident. He was leaving two sons uncared for, namely John, born 8/5/1839 and William, born 30/6/1841, later known as China Bill. Who can doubt the reaction of Donald and Isabella? Donald would be off at once to Dumbarton, while Isabella, trusting Donald's judgement completely in the crisis, remained at home looking after her four young children. Before and after the funeral Donald would meet the Watts of Cardross, the relatives of the boys' mother, Jean, for she "had died young". The arrangement must have been that the Watts took over the older boy, age 12 (he was later lost at sea) and Donald took charge of the younger, age 9. The two brothers were good friends. It seems likely they did not see each other again, though the younger advertised from time to time for news of the older. So young William came into Donald's home at Rutherglen for a time, while plans were made for his future.

A slight difficulty for the amateur genealogist arises here. Lord Ormidale's judgment on the division of China Bill's estate affirms that China Bill's father was killed in 1852. The census return of summer 1851 shows that China Bill was then living with his grandparents, John Murray II and Ann Matheson at Aisdale. From there he went to the village school with at least two of his cousins from Lonachuan, namely Andrew Mackay, the Queensland gold miner, and Donald Murray Mackay, both about his age, and "outward looking". William probably remained at Bonar until he left school, after which he came to Glasgow to live with Donald and Isabella and their sons.

Helen Buchanan wrote: "Donald's wife, Isabella visited Aisdale in the summer, with several of her children, all a bit older than the Mackay lot. Her visits were indeed highlights. The children all went out to the barn to sleep, each carrying his or her own blanket or paraphernalia. Isabella seems to have been a good type. Odd gifts from the Provost would arrive from time to time. I expect he helped other relatives a well."

There was apparently a long association between Donald on the one hand and John Matheson, The Diarist, and his son, "John Senior", on the other. The Diarist recorded Donald's birthday, amongst others, gave him sometime 8, apprenticed him and then made him assistant manager at Barrowfield works. Donald was also an executor of the Diarist's will from 1826 until the death of the Diarist in 1856. R.S. Murray of Denholm, Roxburghshire has a book on the Earls of Sutherland, published in 1813. On the fly leaf is the name of the first owner, namely "John Matheson, Barrowfield Dyeworks, 7th January, 1823". But no date. The date of the gift would therefore be after Donald's appointment to the Bank in October 1849. Taken altogether there was a long-standing association in business, family and social matters with John the Diarist and with his son, "John Senior".

Donald and Isabella appear to have produced five sons and one daughter. To prevent increasing the confusion which may already exist in your minds I must give them additional labels. They were:

John Murray. 1835 - 30/6/1915. "The New Zealand Banker". See separate notes to follow.

Robert Simpson Murray. 1840 - 24/10/1922. "The First Colonel". He followed his father as Bank Agent. Was a solicitor. Burgh Chamberlain, and Colonel in the Volunteers. Great friend of his cousin, William Murray, (China Bill).

George William Murray. Died 21/3/1923. Farmer first, then a head teacher. New Zealand.

James Ure Murray. 8/3/1847 - 1929. Teacher first. Became farmer in New Zealand. These two brought up on the Bible and porridge. "In New Zealand one gave up the porridge and the other gave up the Bible".

Alexander, the youngest. Was on the Tour of Sutherland in 1859.

Margaret Murray. No knowledge of her.

In addition to training his two older sons in banking, I have the idea that Donald assisted his two nephews also in banking, namely William (China Bill) and Donald Murray Mackay, from Lonachuan, son of his sister Elspeth.

In the early months of 1863, Donald and Isabella went down to the quay at Glasgow to watch the departure for New Zealand of the S.S. Aloe. The sailing list showed the following four names: John Murray, and his wife Frances, George William and James Ure Murray! Three of his sons, and his new daughter-in-law! All in one brief hour! Did they also go down to the Broomielaw in July 1864 to wave "Goodbye" to China Bill as he set off for Shanghai, and in 1866 when their banker nephew, Donald Murray Mackay left for New Zealand on the S.S. William Davies? I think that Isabella died before Donald, but I do not know when.

In 1864 Donald became Provost of the Royal Burgh of Rutherglen and served in that office for five years. So he must previously have been on the Town Council, and a very busy man indeed.

The librarian at Rutherglen was interested and made a diligent search of local records, and, apart from the dates of his Provostship she found nothing. "It is a sobering thought that such a fine man should have made little impression on our records" she wrote. There is no portrait of him in his robes or in his chain of office in the Town Hall.

Donald died on 24th October at No. 1 Glasgow Road, Rutherglen. The cause of death was a stroke a few hours previously. The Superintendent of the Southern Necropolis reported that the family grave was "30/- Lairs 1545/6/7 Central Division. There is a sandstone monument, but the names on it are illegible".

The story of Donald, The Provost, looked like being finished on the previous page, but I've just turned up a small piece of paper of Molly Johnstone's. It says "26th September 1868. Donald Murray, 14st 9lbs. Isabella, 13st". Nothing to indicate whether these figures were derived from a penny weighing machine at the chemists, or in the nude at home! Adiposity was their enemy!

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