Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Sir John Stanley Murray (1884–1971)

by Peter Donovan

This article was published:

Sir John Stanley Murray (1884-1971), businessman and pastoralist, was born on 27 March 1884 at Rosebank, Mount Pleasant, South Australia, son of native-born parents John Murray (d.1885), station manager, and his wife Elizabeth Thompson, née Melrose. (Sir) George Murray and Alexander Melrose were his uncles. Stanley was educated at Queen's School, North Adelaide, Glenalmond School (1897-98), Perthshire, Scotland, and the Collegiate School of St Peter (1899-1902), Adelaide. After studying law at Trinity College, Cambridge (B.A., 1908), he was called to the Bar at the Inner Temple, London, in 1909 and admitted to the Bar in South Australia in the same year. In 1914 Murray joined (Sir) Herbert Mayo and (Sir) Collier Cudmore in partnership; Murray and Cudmore were to remain partners until Murray retired in 1948. At St Peter's chapel on 8 June 1910 he married Winifred Olive Wigg (d.1964), Cudmore's sister-in-law.

On 19 December 1916 Murray enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. Commissioned in November 1917, he served on the Western Front with the 1st Divisional Artillery and was promoted lieutenant in December 1918. His appointment terminated in Adelaide on 22 August 1919. He became a leading company lawyer, particularly in mining law, and held directorships of several Western Australian mining companies. Murray also influenced the business world of Adelaide through his appointment to the boards of major firms, including Harris Scarfe Ltd, of which he was chairman. As chairman of directors (from 1939) of the Adelaide Electric Supply Co. Ltd, he resisted Premier (Sir) Thomas Playford's efforts in 1945-46 to nationalize the company, while Cudmore fought against them in the Legislative Council. Although Murray lost the bitter battle, he succeeded in having A.E.S.Co. funds in England returned to the shareholders rather than allowing them to be appropriated by the government. Chairman (from 1936) of News Ltd, he worked closely with Rupert Murdoch who arrived in Adelaide in 1953 to oversee his family's interests in the News. Murray was still chairman in January 1960 at the time of the Rupert Max Stuart case when the newspaper and its editor-in-chief Rohan Rivett were charged with publishing seditious libel. Murray appeared as a witness at the trial in March.

Having acquired Rosebank, which had been owned by two of his uncles—Robert Murray and Alec Melrose—Stanley Murray lived on his property and ran it from 1948; his managers were responsible for its continued development as a leading Aberdeen Angus stud. A keen racehorse-owner, he was a committee-member, chairman (1941-47) and vice-chairman (1947-50) of the South Australian Jockey Club.

Murray was president (1955-57) of the Adelaide Club. In 1957 he was knighted. Following the death of his wife, Sir Stanley retired from public life, moved to Walkerville, and concentrated on managing his portfolio of shares. On 2 April 1971 at Gilberton he married Irenie Florence Walpole, his long-time secretary. Survived by his wife, and by one of the two daughters of his first marriage, he died on 30 May 1971 at his Walkerville home and was cremated. His estate was sworn for probate at $417,755.

Select Bibliography

  • C. and M. Kerr, The Vital Spark (Adel, 1979)
  • S. Cockburn, Playford (Adel, 1991)
  • Royal Commission on the Adelaide Electric Supply Co, Parliamentary Papers (South Australia), (55), 1945
  • News (Adelaide), 31 May 1971
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 1 June 1971.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Peter Donovan, 'Murray, Sir John Stanley (1884–1971)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 18 July 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]


27 March, 1884
Mount Pleasant, South Australia, Australia


30 May, 1971 (aged 87)
Walkerville, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Religious Influence

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