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Murrays in Deal

Deal, Kent, England

Captain George Siddons Murray

Captain George Siddons Murray
Captain George Siddons Murray
(click for larger image)

George Siddons MURRAY was born on 06 March 1841 at 23 Windsor Street, in Edinburgh, Scotland.  He was a son of William Henry Wood MURRAY and Ellen GRAY.  George's parents and grandparents were heavily involved in the Theatre, however George loved the Sea.  We can imagine the discord of his parents pulling him towards the Royal Theatre in Edinburgh when all George wanted to do was walk down to the Firth of Forth and watch the ships sail in and out of Leith Docks.

So it was no surprise then, by the late 1850's, while still a teenager, George Siddons MURRAY became a sailor.  He quickly progressed through the ranks and became a Chief Officer while still in his twenties.  George was Chief Officer aboard the City of Antwerp in late January of 1870 when the ship was confronted by a "furious hurricane".  George remembered that the gale continued even after sunset and "everything was lashed for a night of unusual fury".  At the time, the City of Antwerp and City of Boston were apparently charting fairly parralel courses.  When the City of Antwerp turned south to avoid the possibility of icebergs, George became one of the last people to set eyes on the City of Boston.  The City of Boston undoubtedly continued north and was never heard from again.  For more on Captain Murray's recollection of the last voyage of the City of Boston click here.

George Siddons MURRAY was captured on land by the 1871 British Census while he was waiting for his next assignment in the Kirkdale Parish of Liverpool in Lancashire.

In his early thirties, George Siddons MURRAY was promoted to Captain.  It was Captain George S. MURRAY who guided the City of Antwerp from Liverpool to Queenstown and finally into New York on 1 September 1873.

A month later, George became the master of the City of Brooklyn.  Captain MURRAY piloted that ship back and forth between Liverpool and New York on a monthly basis until at least February of 1875.  Captain George S. Murray was known to be a most efficient and popular officer.

On 20 June 1874, Captain George Siddons MURRAY married Elizabeth GRAY At the Church of All Saints in the Upper Norwood Parish of the County of Surrey in the Greater London area.  Elizabeth was born about 1843 in Galashiels, Scotland and was a daughter of John and Jane GRAY.  John GRAY was a Newspaper Proprietor in Edinburgh at that time.  George and Elizabeth raised a family of three in the Birkenhead District of Cheshire in Merseyside.

In July of 1879, George Siddons MURRAY was the Captain of the S. S. Wyoming.  He was the master of that ship until at least the end of February, 1880.  In March of 1880, George began maneuvering the huge S. S. Arizona for the Guion Line.  He was in control of that ship until February of 1882.

In March of 1882, George S. MURRAY became Captain of what was to become the best known vessel of that era, the S. S. Alaska.

S. S. Alaska
S. S. Alaska
(click for larger image)

The S. S. Alaska was designed by William PEARCE and built in the Fairfield yard on the Clyde in Glasgow for the Guion line.  It was designed to be a larger and more powerful version of the popular S. S. Arizona.  The S. S. Alaska made its first crossing in November of 1881 and George MURRAY was appointed Captain in March of 1882.

With Captain George Siddons MURRAY at the helm the S. S. Alaska smashed all of the Atlantic Speed records, recording 6 days, 18 hours and 37 minutes in 1882.  Her fame was worldwide, and her sailing list during the season was always complete.

As the Captain of the S. S. Alaska, George Siddons MURRAY became a celebrity too.

In early 1884, Captain George S. MURRAY was the celebrity endorser of Warner's Safe Rheumatic Cure.  An "infomercial" of that era appeared in 5 January 1884 Issue of The Prairie Farmer.  Cleverly written as if a reporter was describing the conversation of his lunch with the good Captain MURRAY, the "article" also appeared in several newspapers that Year.  The piece was entitled A Mystery Of The Sea

In 1888, the Honest Long Cut Tobacco Company issued a set sea captain cards which, of course, included Captain George Siddons MURRAY of the S. S. Alaska.  You can see that card by clicking on the image of Captain Siddons above right or by clicking here.  The card appears on this website with special permission of Bill CORNELL creator of the fine Vintage Baseball and Non-sport Cards website.

Captain George Siddons MURRAY and the S. S. Alaska compiled an amazing record of safe passages but sailing the Atlantic in the 19th Century was an ominous task.  On 1 February 1885 the S. S. Alaska lost its rudder in heavy weather.  With 290 passengers aboard, Captain MURRAY reacted with the ingenuity and skill of the seasoned mariner he was.  He reduced speed and continued on, using the sails and a drag to maneuver.  A couple of days later they were approached by Captain JACKSON and the Winnipeg.  Captain MURRAY proposed to tow the Winnipeg and let that ship steer the both of them.  Other than a broken tow chain during a strong gale, the two ships procedeed at a fairly rapid pace.  The passengers of the S. S. Alaska, obviously impressed with the skill of Captain MURRAY, all arrived safely in New York on 9 February 1885.

In December of 1891 the Guion Line assigned Captain George S. MURRAY to pilot the S. S. Abyssinia from Liverpool to New York.  The line arrived safely in New York on 11 December 1891.  The ship was reloaded with passengers and a cargo of cotton and set sail for Liverpool on 13 December.  Five days later, off the coast of Newfoundland the cotton cargo caught fire.  The fire was intense and quickly overwhelmed the heroic fire fighting efforts of the Abyssinia's crew.  Captain MURRAY had to give the abandon ship order.  On the horizon, lookouts on the Spree caught sight of the smoke and steamed to the rescue.  All passengers and crew of the Abyssinia were safely loaded aboard the Spree just before the Abyssinia slipped beneath the waves.  The Spree then continued on to Southampton arriving there on 21 December 1891.

1892 found Captain MURRAY back at the controls of the S. S. Alaska.  He made several runs that year and again in 1893.  His last run may have been in May of 1894 as no record of any further commisions can be found.  Incidentally, Captain MURRAY's son, Austin MURRAY, emigrated to New York aboard the Alaska on that last May of 1894 crossing.  This may have been the time that Captain MURRAY retired.  Of course his love of the sea continued and the family took up residence in Deal, Kent, where they lived just one block from the ocean.

Captain George Siddons MURRAY, died at 41 Victoria Road in Deal on 27 November 1923.  His wife, Elizabeth Gray MURRAY died at 17 Victoria Road on 14 October 1932.

Children of George Siddons MURRAY and Elizabeth Gray MURRAY:

i.  Austin Sherlock MURRAY, who was born on 25 April 1875 at 2 Alfred Road in the Birkenhead District of Cheshire.

ii.  Gertrude Siddons MURRAY, who was born on 05 February 1877 at 2 Alfred Road in Birkenhead.  In the early 1950's Gertrude was living in Bournemouth at 25 Wimbourne Road.  Gertrude was never married and survived both of her siblings.  Gertrude died on 03 September 1962 at 75 Lansdowne Road in Bournemouth, England.

iii.  Jane Renny MURRAY, who was born 24 May 1879 also at 2 Alfred Road.  Jane also never married and in the 1930's she lived at a place she called "Faldonside" in Kinglsey, Southwest of London.  In the early 1940's she lived on Crow Hill near Ringwood between Southampton and Bournemouth.  She also named this residence "Faldonside".  Jane Renny MURRAY died on 09 April 1961 at 75 Lansdowne Road in Bournemouth.