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David Murray (1829–1907)

by Sally O'Neill

This article was published:

David Murray (1829-1907), by unknown photographer, c1900

David Murray (1829-1907), by unknown photographer, c1900

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 53209

David Murray (1829-1907), merchant and politician, was born on 28 December 1829 at Anstruther, Fife, Scotland, son of William Murray. He arrived in South Australia with his brother William in 1853 and they set up a retail drapery store in Gilbert Place, Adelaide. In 1855 they moved to larger premises in Grenfell Street where a wholesale department was added. In 1862 they turned entirely to wholesale trade and in 1866 moved to a site in King William Street. Next year they opened a clothing factory and later others for boots and shirts. In 1874 Murray opened an indent and merchandise department and in conjunction with the firm's London agency built up a large import and export business. For some years Murray's father acted as their buyer, financier and general agent in England. In 1886 the firm moved into an impressive new warehouse in Gawler Place; its five storeys cost £20,000 and contained, as part of Murray's policy, comfortable and modern amenities for the employees. In 1897 the firm became a limited liability company. Branches were opened in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Perth, Launceston, Rockhampton, Townsville and Broken Hill. Murray was senior partner of the firm until 1907.

In public affairs Murray was well known and respected. He represented East Adelaide in the House of Assembly from 28 March 1870 to 23 December 1871 and East Torrens from 27 March 1877 to 13 March 1878. Elected for Yatala on 25 April 1881 he was unseated on 28 June for charges of bribery. The case aroused sympathy for Murray and he was persuaded to stand again, winning the seat on 13 July. However, he was ruled ineligible for re-election by the House of Assembly's Committee of Privilege and on 18 August had to resign. In 1882 he was elected to the Legislative Council holding the seat till 1891. A terse and clear speaker, he had served as chief secretary in the Downer administration in 1886-87.

As an elder of the Flinders Street Presbyterian Church from 1858, Murray sought 'in a characteristically quiet and unostentatious way' to promote friendship between the denominations and often held informal gatherings of clergy in his home, St Andrews, North Adelaide. He was a founder of the Adelaide Young Men's Christian Association, its president in 1881-83 and a liberal provider of funds for its activities. In 1875 he was chairman of the League for the Education Act. An ardent lover of books, he read widely and his personal library contained many rare works. When the new building for the School of Mines and Industries was planned, Murray gave £500 for a library which was named after him; he attended the opening of the school in February 1903 and left £1000 in his will as a further contribution to the library. He provided libraries and reading rooms for his employees and left £4000 to the library and reading room of his birthplace. As an art collector and critic, he acted with others as a buyer on behalf of the Board of Governors of the Public Library. He also left £2000 to the Flinders Street Church and £5000 to the Presbyterian Church of South Australia, £3000 and all his prints and engravings to the library, and £2000 to found scholarships in the University of Adelaide where he had been elected to the council in 1887.

Murray enjoyed angling as a recreation and had a small property near Mylor on the Onkaparinga River where he grew fruit and hops by irrigation. On 9 May 1856 at North Adelaide he had married Rebecca, daughter of Thomas Godfrey of Dublin, Ireland. Their only child, a son, died in infancy. Business took Murray on eleven round trips between Australia and England. His wife often went with him and they finally settled in England in March 1900. She survived him when he died at his London home in Pembridge Square, Bayswater, on 6 January 1907. He left an estate worth £203,669.

Select Bibliography

  • H. T. Burgess (ed), Cyclopedia of South Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1908), Register (Adelaide), 14, 15 July, 19 Aug 1881, 8 Feb 1886, 14 Feb 1900, 26 Feb 1903
  • Observer (Adelaide), 7 May 1887.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Sally O'Neill, 'Murray, David (1829–1907)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 30 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

David Murray (1829-1907), by unknown photographer, c1900

David Murray (1829-1907), by unknown photographer, c1900

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 53209

Life Summary [details]


28 December, 1829
Anstruther, Fife, Scotland


6 January, 1907 (aged 77)
London, Middlesex, England

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