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Murrays in New Zealand


John Murray New Zealand Shepherd

John MURRAY was born on 24 March 1853 at the Greenhill Farm Cottage which overlooks Evan Water three miles north and west of Moffat in Dumfriesshire.  He was a son of Peter MURRAY and Mary GEDDES.  John attended school at the Moffat Academy and enjoyed spinning the tale that he had to walk the three miles in his bare feet, through the snow, etc.  During the summers he relished helping with the farm chores and helping his father attend to the sheep.

John Murray New Zealand Shepherd
John Murray

His father taught him well, and as a young adult (see photo at left, click on photo for larger image), John was working as a shepherd in and around the Moffat, Dumfriesshire area.  His career eventually led him to a job in the Muiravonside Parish in Stirlingshire and it was there that he met Jane "Jeannie" Little KILGOUR (see photo at right, click on photo for larger image).

John and Jeannie were married at the Free Church at Knowhead on 23 July 1880.  Jeannie was born about 17 June 1860 and was the daughter of James KILGOUR and Jane ROUGHEAD.  The marriage was witnessed by John's brother Walter MURRAY.

Jeannie Little Kilgour
Jeannie Little Kilgour

Children of John MURRAY and Jeannie KILGOUR:

i.  Peter MURRAY, who was born on 09 October 1881 at Burnside in the Muiravonside Parish.

ii.  James MURRAY, who was born on 01 May 1883 at Burnside.  James worked for the Bank of New Zealand and eventually became manager of the Wairoa Branch.  Around 1921, James married Maude LLOYD.  James painted watercolor landscape, liked photography, and was Grand Master of the Auckland Masonic Lodge.  Maude died on 16 September 1950.  James died on 22 August 1970 at Hutt Hospital in Wellington, New Zealand.

iii.  John (Jack) MURRAY, who was also born on 01 May 1883 at Burnside.

Cora Lyn Station, New Zealand
Cora Lyn Station

Sometime after the birth of the twins, Jeannie contracted tuberculosis.  Medical advice suggested a kinder climate so in 1886 the family was off to New Zealand.  John easily found work as a shepherd and soon he was the head shepherd at one of the large Canterbury sheep stations in the foothills of the mountains.  Very quickly, John was promoted to the manager at Cora Lynn Station (see photo at right, click on photo for larger image) on the Waimakariri River close to Arthur's Pass.  All was not well however, as the climate did not seem to be helping Jeannie.  She continued to decline and unfortunately died in 1887.

The busy Cora Lynn Station manager was suddenly a widower with three very young boys to raise.  John bought a house in the Sydenham district of Christchurch where the boys were installed and placed in the care of housekeeper Sarah MAYES.  Sarah was born in Girvan, Ayrshire, Scotland on 1 February 1856 and was the daughter of Thomas MAYES and Isabella ALLISON.  Sarah and her family came to New Zealand in 1864.

John continued to manage Cora Lynn Station until his job was abolished due to the severe depression of 1896.  John then apparently moved to Christchurch as later in 1896 he and Sarah MAYES were married.

Child of John MURRAY and Sarah MAYES:

iv.  Ernest MURRAY, who was born on 24 September 1897 in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Shorty Jardine and John Murray
"Shorty" and John Murray

John found employment as a roadman on the Arthur's Pass township to Otira township section of the road over the mountains to the West Coast.  In this profession he was also impressive and just before 1900 he was promoted to supervisor of the section.  (see photo at left of John's assistant "Shorty" Jardine and the taller John.)

At this time he lived in the supervisor's hut (named Jack's Hut after a later roadman) (see photo above right).  Commuting between the Supervisor's Hut and Christchurch was quick and easy by rail and John was frequently able to join the boys and Sarah in Christchurch.

Jack's Hut
Jack's Hut

John Murray in November 1912
John Murray, November 1912

John became a part-time guide for those venturing into the headwaters of the Waimakariri River and surrounding mountains.  The photo at left shows John MURRAY in front of his tent at the head of the Waimakariri River.  (Click on photo for larger image)  This photograph was taken in November of 1912 by William Alexander KENNEDY, a prominent New Zealand photographer, whose work is currently in possession of the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand.  The photo appears here thanks to John MURRAY's great-great grandson, David WHITE.

At about age 59, in 1912, John was credited with making the first solo climb of the South Peak of Mount Rolleston (2,271 meters/7,449 feet).  The photograph at right of Mount Rolleston appears here with the kind permission of Alan TORRANCE.  John MURRAY was in great demand by all of the University climbing parties who wanted a crack at conquering Mount Rolleston.  Sometime around 1915 John MURRAY retired and returned to Christchurch.

Mt. Rolleston photo by Alan Torrance
Mt. Rolleston

Soon after retirement, John endured an incredibly unfortunate period in his life as his eldest son, Peter, was killed in France in 1917 during WWI and Sarah Mayes MURRAY died in Christchurch in 1921.

John Murray in his garden
John Murray in his garden

Like his father and grandfather before him, John was incredibly healthy during his eighth decade of life.

Photos of him at about this time include John (at left) in the garden of his Sydenham, Christchurch home and (at right) on the porch of the same home.  (click on either image for larger view)

John Murray about 1933
John Murray about 1933

Robert and John Murray
Robert and John Murray

Around 1934, John sold the house in Christchurch and moved in with his son, Jack, in Wellington.  He continued to display his incredible mountain climbing stamina with a routine that included walking five (5) miles a day.

John is shown at age 85 at right with his grandson, Robert, possibly on his daily walk in Evans Bay, Wellington.  Nothing slowed John down until he was hospitalized for the removal of a tumor in 1942.  John never fully recovered from this and died at age 90 on 04 October 1943.

Much appreciation to Michael Murray, grandson of John Murray (1853-1942), for supplying the information and most of the photos used on this page.  Many thanks also to Jennifer Murray WHITE and her son David WHITE.