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MURRAY, Charles

Born: 1864 09 28
Died: 1941 04 12


Was born in Alford, Aberdeenshire, Scotland and died in Banchory, Kincardineshire, Scotland. He spent his childhood in the beautiful and historical vale of Aldford. He studied architecture and civil engineering at Aberdeen University and in 1888 came out to South Africa. Settling in Johannesburg, he became a 'member of the firm of PHILIP, MURRAY & LECK, architects and engineers' (Men Tvl 1905:257). The directories of the period list him first in partnership with one PHILIP in Johannesburg (cf PHILIP & MURRAY) and then as a member of PHILIP, CARMICHAEL & MURRAY in about 1888/1890. In 1891 Murray left for Mashonaland but returned to Johannesburg after a short period (unknown) he returned to the Transvaal, becoming a surveyor at the Ferreira, Wemmer & Worcester Gold Mines. In 1899 he was manager of New Florida Mine and York Mine at Krugersdorp. On the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War he enlisted and served with the Second Railway Pioneer Regiment, returning to civilian life in 1901 and becoming Deputy Inspector of Mines for the Transvaal Government. His 'thrustful personality and efficiency' (DSAB IV:383) assisted his rapid rise in government service and he was appointed Registrar of Crown Titles in 1905 which later became the Estates Office Department, MURRAY being Estates Officer. Under Lt-Colonel GH FOWKE, MURRAY was appointed Under-Secretary of Works in 1905, was promoted to the post of Secretary and Chief Engineer for the Transvaal Colony 1907, and in 1912 was appointed the Secretary for PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT, a post he held until his retirement in 1924. (During the First World War he was appointed Director of Works for the Union Defence Force for which he was awarded the CMG in 1922.)

A capable administrator, one of MURRAY's maxims was that 'administration is best carried on as you cook little fish, without much fuss' (Christie 1943:7.) He directed the setting up of competitions for various government buildings, such as that for the Pretoria Post Office in 1909, and played a significant role in the execution of the Union Buildings (1910-1913); Herbert BAKER fought a losing battle with Murray in his endeavour to increase the budget for the Union Buildings (Christie 1943:30-31.)

Christie also ascribes the improvements in the quality of JJ Kirkness's building materials to MURRAY and adds: 'it is not too much to say that there is no building of any size, erected since (MURRAY's day) that does not owe something to MURRAY's steady and unrelenting insistence on quality in those early days' (Christie 1943:33.) MURRAY, a poet as well, published several volumes of his poetry which is written in Scots dialect.

For more information visit the Dictionary of Scottish Architects.

(Christie 1943; DSAB IV:383; Men Tvl 1905:257)

Publ: Hamewith (Aberdeen 1900); A sough o' war (London 1917); In country places (London 1920); Collected poems (London 1927)

All truncated references not fully cited in 'References' are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.

Books by MURRAY

Murray, Charles . 1927. Hamewith, and other poems : Hamewith, A sough o' war, In the country places. London: Constable

Books citing MURRAY

Christie, Charles. 1943. Some memories of Charles Murray and a few of his friends : including the substance of a presidential address to the South African Library Association on the occasion of their Triennial Conference at Johannesburg, January, 1943. Pretoria: Wallachs. pp ??

HSRC. 1981. Dictionary of South African Biography Volume IV. Pretoria: Butterworth & Co (SA) for Human Sciences Research Council. pp 383

SAWW & Donaldson, K. 1926. South African Who's Who (Social and Business) 1925-1926 . Cape Town: Ken Donaldson. pp 192

SAWW & Donaldson, K. 1938. South African Who's Who (Social and Business) 1938. Cape Town: Ken Donaldson. pp 175

Transvaal Publishing Co. 1905. Men of the Times : Pioneers of the Transvaal and glimpses of South Africa . Johannesburg, Cape Town and London: The Transvaal Publishing Co. pp 257