Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John David Murray (1918–1977)

by M. Medcalf

This article was published:

John David Murray (1918-1977), soldier and businessman, was born on 15 May 1918 at Fremantle, Western Australia, fourth child of English-born parents John Murray, engineer, and his wife Mary Isabell, née Smith. Educated at Guildford Grammar School, Jock joined S. J. McGibbon & Co., an accountancy firm in Perth, in 1935.

After serving (from 1937) in the Citizen Military Forces, Murray enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 3 November 1939. He sailed for the Middle East in April 1940 as a lieutenant in the 2nd/11th Battalion. Next year he fought in North Africa, Greece and Crete. Following the allied defeat, Cretans hid him from the Germans until he was taken to the Middle East by submarine in August. Returning to Australia in March 1942, he joined the staff of the 19th Brigade and saw action (1944-45) in the Wewak, New Guinea, campaign as brigade major. He was appointed M.B.E. (1944) and O.B.E. (1947). On 15 January 1946 he transferred to the Reserve of Officers.

That year he rejoined McGibbon & Co. and was sent to Albany. There he became associated with Westralian Trawling Co. Pty Ltd and Seafoods Pty Ltd, first as secretary and then as manager. The companies, set up as part of the State government's proposal to establish a fishing industry in the Great Australian Bight, commenced operations in July 1948. By November they were in financial difficulties. In 1949 Anglo-Australian Fisheries Co. Ltd provided two Mersey-type trawlers to assist the venture. Murray was appointed general manager of the three companies. Although packs of frozen fish (trademarked Snowman) were well received on the market, the irregularity of supply and the inefficiency of the coal-fired trawlers forced the companies into receivership in 1952.

Murray moved to another accountancy firm, J. D. Whyte, Reilly & Mitchell, and was appointed manager of Cheynes Beach Whaling Co. Pty Ltd in 1953. He continued his involvement with the C.M.F. On 15 July 1954 he was seconded to the Department of External Affairs to serve as a United Nations military observer in Kashmir. Back home in 1957, he was promoted lieutenant colonel and commanded the 28th Battalion in 1959-60. Re-appointed (1959) manager of the Cheynes Beach Whaling Co., he lived on the station at Frenchman Bay, Albany, and guided the firm to prosperity. Profits soared, and a dividend of 60 per cent was declared in 1964. By 1973 the company had secured interests in Fertal Pty Ltd, which manufactured tallow and meat meal, and in Sigma Chemicals Pty Ltd, through which other whale products were marketed.

Nuggety in build, with dark hair, blue eyes and a ready smile, Murray was a gregarious, popular and community-spirited man. He chaired the Albany Port Authority (1964-77) and the Old Farm, Strawberry Hill, committee (1969-77) of the National Trust of Australia, and was active in Rotary, Legacy and the Returned Services League of Australia. Murray died suddenly of heart disease on 6 January 1977 at Albany and was cremated with Anglican rites. In the following year the International Whaling Commission agreed to a moratorium on whaling and a Commonwealth inquiry recommended that it be prohibited in Australian waters.

Select Bibliography

  • H. M. Binks, The 2/11th (City of Perth) Australian Infantry Battalion, 1939-1945 (Perth, 1984)
  • Albany Port Authority, Annual Report, 1964-77 (State Library of Western Australia)
  • National Trust of Australia (Western Australia), Trust News, no 86, Feb 1977
  • Sunday Times (Perth), 22 Aug 1971
  • Albany Advertiser, 11 Jan 1977
  • Department of Fisheries (Western Australia) files, AN 108, and Dept of Industrial Development (Western Australia) files, AN 183 (State Records Office of Western Australia).

Citation details

M. Medcalf, 'Murray, John David (1918–1977)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 20 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


15 May, 1918
Fremantle, Western Australia, Australia


6 January, 1977 (aged 58)
Albany, Western Australia, Australia

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