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John Francis Nowell Murray (1900–1978)

by Ann Elias

This article was published:

John Francis Nowell Murray (1900-1978), valuer and chartered surveyor, was born on Christmas Day 1900 in Hobart, eldest son of Tasmanian-born parents John William Murray, grocer, and his wife Emily, née Smith. Educated at St Virgil's College, Hobart, John entered the Commonwealth Public Service in December 1916 as a clerk in the Taxation Office. He worked as an assistant to staff valuers (from 1920), draftsman (from 1927) and senior valuer (from 1934). On 12 February 1924 he had married Olive Eileen Lottie Davern at St John's Anglican Church, Launceston. By studying part time Murray qualified as an associate (1927) and colonial fellow (1934) of the Surveyors' Institution (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors), London. He also graduated from the University of Tasmania (B.A., 1933; D.Litt., 1953).

In 1934 Murray was commissioned in the Australian Field Artillery, Militia. Posted to the 6th Field Regiment in 1941, he was seconded to the Australian Imperial Force in the following year. His appointment terminated on 28 April 1943 when the government requisitioned his services for the War Damage Commission. In 1943-46 he carried out valuation work in Papua, New Guinea and nearby islands. After World War II Murray moved to Sydney, and was employed as Commonwealth chief valuer for New South Wales (1946-49) and as chairman (1949-65) of the Commonwealth valuation appeals boards. From 1957 he was a land commissioner for the Australian Capital Territory. Retiring from the public service in 1965, he set up in private practice.

Murray had contributed significantly to his profession as its focus shifted from local and personal levels to matters of national and theoretical dimensions. At the invitation of the Commonwealth Institute of Valuers, he wrote Principles and Practice of Valuation (Sydney, 1949) and Valuation Practice (Sydney, 1953); both became standard texts. He lectured and examined for the institute, to which he was elected a life fellow (1955), and contributed to its journal, the Valuer. Murray's doctoral thesis—in part published as Valuation and the National Economy (Phoenix, Arizona, 1967)—examined the problem of balancing the rights of individuals and the state in land matters, and contained insights which he applied as a technical-assistance consultant to the governments of Singapore (1955), Ghana (1957) and Jamaica (1956, 1957 and 1960). Other assignments followed in Kenya (1960, 1961), New Zealand (1962) and Papua New Guinea (1971), and as a visiting lecturer in Taiwan (1969-74). He also advised numerous Australian organizations and enjoyed the challenge of appearing as an expert witness in complex court cases.

Astute and self-confident, Murray was a fluent communicator, gifted with an excellent memory and an analytical mind. Within his profession he exemplified the effectiveness of the individual practitioner who used the science of measurement and 'the art of determining the value of all descriptions of landed . . . and house property' to offer a fair resolution to conflicts inherent in land use. Murray died on 13 March 1978 at Greens Beach, Tasmania, and was cremated; his wife, daughter and two sons survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Institute of Valuers, A History 1926-1988 (Canb, 1988)
  • Valuer, 10, 1 Oct 1949, p 365, 14, 1 Oct 1956, p 171, 25, July 1978, p 216
  • Mercury (Hobart), 14, 15 Mar 1978
  • Examiner (Launceston, Tas), 15 Mar 1978
  • Murray papers (National Library of Australia).

Citation details

Ann Elias, 'Murray, John Francis Nowell (1900–1978)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 21 May 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

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