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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Murray, Sir George (1772–1846)

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

Sir George Murray (1772-1846), soldier and politician, was born on 6 February 1772 at Ochtertyre, Crieff, Perthshire, Scotland, the second son of Sir William Murray, baronet, and Lady Augusta Mackenzie, daughter of the earl of Cromarty. He was educated at the Edinburgh High School and the University of Edinburgh and in March 1789 became an ensign in the 71st Regiment, from which he transferred to the 34th Regiment and thence in 1790 to the 3rd Foot Guards.

He served in Flanders in 1793-94 and the West Indies 1795-96, being promoted lieutenant and captain in 1794 and lieutenant-colonel in 1799. He saw active service in Egypt in 1801 and after holding a series of senior staff appointments at home and abroad was appointed quarter master general in Portugal under Sir John Moore in 1808. In March 1809 he became a brevet colonel and was appointed quarter master general on Wellington's staff in Spain and Portugal. He returned from Spain in 1811 and next year became quarter master general in Ireland and was there until September 1813 when he rejoined the army in Spain and remained with it until the Peninsular war ended. He had been promoted major-general in January 1812 and was appointed K.C.B. in September 1813.

In 1814 Murray was made governor of the Canadian colonies, but when war broke out again he obtained permission to join the army in Flanders and he remained with the army of occupation as chief of staff until 1818. In 1819-24 he was governor of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, and in 1823 was elected to parliament. In 1825-28 he commanded in Ireland, being promoted lieutenant-general. From May 1828 to November 1830 he was secretary of state for the colonies in Wellington's administration. In his brief control at the Colonial Office, the colony of Western Australia was founded. By his lavish patronage of relations and friends in Perthshire, the Australian colonies gained some third-rate public servants and many first-rate settlers with capital. In Western Australia, the founding governor, Captain James Stirling, named the capital Perth, and one of its streets and a river in the south-west of the colony after Murray. He had been similarly honoured in 1829 by the soldier and surveyor, Captain Charles Sturt, while Sturt was navigating Australia’s most important river to its mouth in South Australia.

In his Autobiography (London, 1885) Henry Taylor, then a clerk in the Colonial Office, described him as 'an old soldier and a high-bred gentleman, whose countenance and natural stateliness and simple dignity of demeanour were all that can be desired in a Secretary of State, if to look the character were the one thing needful'. In 1832 he was defeated at the general election but gained in 1834 a seat which he soon lost. He was promoted general in November 1841. He died at Belgrave Square, London, on 28 July 1846.

He had married in 1826 Lady Louisa Erskine, sister of the marquis of Anglesea and widow of Sir James Erskine.

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Citation details

'Murray, Sir George (1772–1846)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 24 October 2020.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

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