Terrence Aubrey Murray

Terence Aubrey Murray

Sir Terence Aubrey Murray (May 10, 1810 - June 22, 1873) was an Australian pastoralist, parliamentarian and knight of the realm.

Terence Aubrey Murray was born in Limerick, Ireland, into a patriotic and politically-aware Catholic family. His mother, Ellen Murray (nee Fitzgerald), died at St Omer in France when Terence was still a child. His father, also named Terence, served as a paymaster in the British Army with the rank of captain. Young Terence had two older siblings, James (who trained as a surgeon), and Anna Maria (who married the farmer and grazier, George Bunn, of Braidwood, New South Wales).

Paymaster Murray (1781-1835) had travelled with his regiment to the Australian colony of New South Wales in 1817 and, in 1825, to India. In 1827, the Murray family moved permanently to New South Wales to take advantage of the free land grants being made to military officers by the colonial government. They arrived in Sydney in April 1827 on the Elizabeth and leased a house at Erskine Park as a temporary measure.

Around 1829, Terence Aubrey Murray acquired his first farming and grazing land near the village of Collector, south-west of Sydney. His main property was situated alongside Lake George. He called it Winderradeen. Murray added to his country estates in 1837 when he purchased another large sheep-grazing property, Yarralumla, on the Limestone Plains (in what is now the Australian Capital Territory). Today, Yarralumla is the site of the official residence of the Governor-General of Australia.

With the establishment of a partially representative parliament in the colony in 1843, Murray resolved to pursue a political career. He was elected unopposed to the New South Wales Legislative Council, representing the Counties of Murray, King and Georgiana. During the ensuing years, he played a prominent role in parliamentary debates and proceedings. In 1856, a fully representative Legislative Assembly was established with the introduction of responsible government. Murray was duly elected to it, representing the electoral districts of Southern Boroughs and, from 1859, Argyle. In 1856-1858, he sat in the New South Wales cabinet as Secretary for Lands and Works. At one point, Murray had the opportunity to form a ministry with himself as premier. But the move failed when Murray was unable to enlist the support of sufficient Members of Parliament, a number of whom considered him to be intellectually arrogant. Between 1861 and 1862, Murray served as an effective and impartial Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. Towards the end of 1862, he was appointed for life to the Legislative Council. He would serve as the Council's distinguished President until his death in 1873.

Privately, Murray was a highly intelligent, extremely well-read country "squire" with an extensive library of books and a comparatively liberal (if sometimes opinionated) view of society. He was tall in stature with red hair, a swaggering walk and an imposing presence. Murray was also an outstanding horseman and bushman.

On May 27 1843, he married into the Anglo-colonial establishment when he wed Mary "Minnie" Gibbes (1817-1858) at St James' Anglican Church, Sydney. English-born Mary went to live with her new husband at Yarralumla homestead; but being a cultivated and gregarious young lady, she found it hard to adjust to rural life in the uncouth and lonely Australian countryside. At the time of his marriage to Mary, Murray settled a moiety of his landed property on her in case he should ever become bankrupt as a result of drought or economic depression. When Mary died unexpectedly at Winderradeen homestead on January 2 1858, this arrangement put Murray in a difficult situation because control of a key portion of Winderradeen passed to the trustees of Mary's estate. This meant that the land could not be sold without the trustees' permission. The trustees included Mary's father, Colonel John George Nathaniel Gibbes (1787-1873), who was the Collector of Customs for NSW, and Mary's youngest brother, Augustus Onslow Manby Gibbes (1828-1897).

In July 1859, Murray sold Yarralumla, its buildings and all its livestock to Augustus Gibbes in order to raise money. (Yarralumla would remain in Gibbes ownership until 1881.) Murray almost went broke during the 1860s when disease devastated his sheep flocks and he was forced to auction off Winderradeen's library to satisfy his creditors. He was only saved from bankruptcy (and automatic disqualification from parliament) by the financial generosity of some of his colleagues. He would remain, however, in a tight fiscal position for the rest of his life, even though the trustees of Winderradeen eventually consented to the sale of the property for a sizeable sum of money. Murray died from cancer, aged 63, at Richmond House in the inner-Sydney suburb of Darlinghurst. Although baptised a Catholic, he was buried in the grounds of an Anglican church, St Jude's, at Randwick, in Sydney's eastern suburbs. (He had always taken a non-sectarian approach to Christian worship.)

Murray's knighthood was conferred on him by Queen Victoria in 1869 for his services to public life. He had three children from his first marriage to Mary Gibbes, namely, Leila Alexandrina Murray, Evelyn Mary Fanny Matilda Murray (subsequently Mrs Robert Morrison) and James Aubrey Gibbes Murray, who joined the New South Wales Department of Lands. (Three other children, all daughters, died in infancy and were buried at Yarralumla.) Two years after Mary's death, Murray married the children's English nanny, Agnes Ann Edwards (1835-1891), at Winderradeen, on August 4 1860. He had a further two children with Agnes. They were: Sir John Hubert Plunkett Murray, who later became the administrator of Papua; and Dr Gilbert Murray, who later became Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford University and was a participant in the drafting of the League of Nations Covenant. (Professor Murray's full given names were George Gilbert Aime.)

Following the loss of her husband in 1873, Agnes made ends meet by conducting a girls' school in Sydney's Potts Point. She later returned to England where she died in 1891.

Notes

Further reading

For more information about the history of the Yarralumla estate during Murray's lifetime, see the Canberra Historical Journal, New Series, Number 48, September 2001, pages 11-31.

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