Friday, August 12, 2016

George Murray b 1819

Never believe those family stories.

According to the author of an article in The Northern Times newspaper, the family story of George Murray is:  "It is thought he came to Australia around 1837/38 when he would have been about 20 years old. A story passed down in the family relates that he traveled as a groom, caring for horses belonging to a British lord. At first he worked as a carrier between Sydney and Campbeltown driving a bullock team and wagon, which at the time had its dangers from bushrangers and thieves, but mainly from starving escaped convicts."

Oh no!  This is a perfect example of the family story being incorrect (there have been so many in my family!). George Murray was a farmers boy, convicted of Shop Breaking in Inverness, Scotland,  and sentenced to 7 years, transported as a convict to Australia.  But how times have changed, no one in the family, least of all George, would have wanted it known he was a convict.  Now having a convict in the family is considered quite differently! I have a connection to George through the McKinlay family, also from the Goulburn area.

George Murray (from The Northern Times, 2011)


Born in Golspie, Sutherland, Scotland in 1819, George was the son of George Murray and Kate McDonald Note:  He may have been born at  Loch Shin near Lairg, Sutherland, and later relocated to Golspie,  his family could have been put out of their home due to the clearances in Scotland.

Aged just 15 years, how must he have felt  on 23rd April, 1835  when he was sentenced for housebreaking, at Inverness Court of Justice, to 7 years transportation.  He was held aboard the hulk Justitia, moored at Woolwich London before departing for Australia aboard the Moffatt on 5th May, 1836.  The journey took 116 days.

There is a book, online through Trove and Google books called "Old Convict Days" by William Derricourt.  Page 27 gives a detailed account of what it was like to be on the Hulk Justitia in London harbour.  I cannot imagine how a 15 years old, it felt to only be referred to as a number during that time.

The arrival of the Moffatt was dangerous and controversial, One of the officers accused the Sydney Pilot of negligence as the Moffatt was caught in a storm off middle head, and nearly lost.  Fortunately when the pilot did come aboard he got the ship safely into the port.


George Murray is described in his Convict Indent as : 18yrs, Reads, Protestant,  Single, Native of Sutherlandshire, Farmers Boy, Convicted Shop Breaking, Inverness Court of Justaiciary, 23 April 1835, Sentence 7 years no former convictions.  Height:5-10-1/2 inches, Ruddy and freckled, Dark brown hair, grey eyes, Dark red whiskers, mole betwixt the breasts, small mole inside right elbow, another below left elbow.

 It appears that George spent 1837- 1839 attached to  Parramatta Gaol, but probably he was sent out working to various places, as he is in Windsor Gaol from 5th to 11th of February, 1838.  By 1841 he had been in Australia for 5 years, had a ticket of leave and applied to marry Margaret Cameron, a freewoman.  They married at Bungonia, Goulburn, NSW, and in October 1842.

Born about 1821, Margaret Cameron most likely came to Australia with her parents James and Catherine Cameron, and 7 other children, possibly in 1838.  She would have been17 years of age at the time. 

In 1841 Margaret (aged 20)  married George Murray (22) at the Presbyterian church in  Bungonia, (near Goulburn), NSW, AUS. They lived first at Strathaird near Taralga where their first child was born in 1842. Their next eight children are recorded as born at houses, their’s or neighbours’, named Strontian, Cutty Cuttgang (or Cutty Gutty-ang), or Lairg. The last child, Ann, was born in 1861 at Golspie, by now the accepted name of George and Margaret’s farm.

In 1942 George was given a Certificate of Freedom,  (No. 41/1/45), and on that he is listed as a trace labourer.  This probably means he was working with horses, removing the tack, harness and traces from working horses.   So he was given his freedom on 5th October 1842, having served nearly all his 7 years.  

Much of what I know of George Murray's life comes from the Upper Lachlan Shire Heritage Report, completed in 2008 by Dr. Jennifer Lambert Tracey, and as it is oral history, may certainly contain inaccuracies:

The following account, with some inaccuracies, was written by Elizabeth Kerr,and published in The Northern Times, 5thMarch 2009. It is included because of its personal approach to finding the history and heritage of Golspie.
I wrote an article on Golspie, NSW, published by the late Jim Henderson sometime between 1992 and 1994 ... of the history of Golspie, NSW, and its direct connections to Golspie, Sutherland, Scotland.
About 1992, we'd been in Sydney about four years or so and always intended to visit Golspie, NSW.... However, on meeting with a local historian, Judith Matthews, the story that unraveled kept us there talking to her and being taken around by her most of the day.
Firstly, we learned how Golspie, NSW, got its name. Judith's ancestor gained his freedom as a convict from Governor Macarthur [read ‘Macquarie’] before Golspie, NSW, existed. George Murray from Golspie, Sutherland, teamed up with this man (it is thought that George Murray came to Australia a free man) and both these men were granted permission by Macarthur to peg out and buy land for sheep farming in the area, which they did for the sum of one British pound per acre of land. The area George Murray and his friend came to near Goulburn – the main sheep/wool centre in NSW then and today – was called ‘Cutty Gutty’, the aboriginal name of a nearby creek. Further down the track, when there were several families established there, a meeting of the community was called to elect a postmaster with the intention of setting up a postal system for the area. Mail was to be transported by horse from Camden. 
At the same time this same person was to choose a new name for the community because there were too many similar sounding aboriginal names. George Murray was chosen as postmaster and he chose the name of his home village in Scotland for the new name of the community – Golspie. All mail for the community was then addressed c/o George
 Murray, Golspie
George Murray's house Golspie

George Murray's old home in New South Wales has the original metal name tag -'Golspie' - on the gate. George married Margaret and they had a very large family,many of whom are still in the area. He died in Golspie, NSW, on 29th December 1906, aged 80 years. The mail service ran from 1st May 1873 to 21st September1990 before it was closed, with all the mail now being handled through the main centre at Goulburn. Judith, who was the last postmistress as well as local historian.

On 38th March 1895 Margaret died, and her  obituary in the Goulburn Herald was as follows:
[From our Correspondent.]

On Saturday last Mrs. George Murray of this place, joined those who have gone before. Mrs. Murray has been a resident of Golspie for some sixty years, and was married to Mr. Murray fifty-three years ago. Her age was seventy-four. For a great number of years Mrs. Murray has been in delicate health, often assuming serious aspects, but rarely compelling her to remain in bed. The last attack extended over three weeks, and I am sorry to
say she experienced much pain and suffering. To comment upon Mrs. Murray's good qualities would almost be out of place. She was indeed a true and faithful friend, a kind and loving mother, and a devoted wife. Mrs. Murray leaves six children and four passed away before her. The most profound sympathy is expressed for Mr. Murray and the family; and we all trust that a knowledge of Mrs. Murray's happiness will assuage their sorrow. Mrs. Murray's name will ever be mentioned by those who knew her with that respect due alone to the noble and good.
Here is the letter of resignation, from his position as postmaster, from George Murray to the Postmaster General in 1898.  (He certainly had lovely handwriting.)

Letter from Australian National Archives.

Goerge's daughter Ann took over the post office after his resignation.

George died on 29th December 1906, and is buried with Margaret at Stonequarry Cemetery, Taralga, NSW, AUS.  Several obituaries were written about him. 

Headstones of George and Margaret Murray

More Information? If you are researching George Murray or Margaret Cameron and would like the sources for this story, please contact me or comment below.  I would be happy to collaborate with you.

Obituary George Murray

Clan Sutherland - George Murray

Transportation - George Murray

Convict Indent - George Murray

Convict placements - George Murray

Golspie Scotland - George Murray