text size
large font

Murrays in Ontario

Owen Sound

Tom Murray 1916-2003

Tom Murray, Owen Sound, Ontario
Tom Murray about 1983

Tom MURRAY researched the MURRAY surname in Peeblesshire, Scotland and Huron County, Ontario, Canada for over fifty years.

In 1997, he published THE FRUITFUL SHEPHERD, the story of James MURRAY who was born in Tweedsmuir, Peeblesshire, Scotland in 1791.  Tom painstakingly attempted to identify and contact each descendant of James MURRAY and succeeded in finding over 3100 descendants.

Sadly, Mr. Tom MURRAY, Master Genealogist, passed away in Owen Sound, Ontario on 09 March 2003.  Tom's long time friend and neighbor, William F. TAYLOR authored the following Eulogy:

Tom's Celebration of Life
by William F. TAYLOR

Tom Murray Memorial Program
Tom Murray Memorial Program

We are gathered today to celebrate life.  The life of Thomas Redfern MURRAY.  Trying to put the 87 years of Tom's life on a few pages is almost as difficult as finding a needle in a hay stack.

Tom's started life on 24 July 1916 in Owen Sound at the grand weight of 3 pounds.  Not a very big start in life.  In addition to being a light weight at birth you may not be aware of it but Tom's start in life was without a father.  His father had died two months earlier after a very short illness.  Tom was raised by a strong mother and many cousins and uncles.  His mother's family, The REDFERNs, had been prominent industrialists and his grandfather a leading businessman in Owen Sound during the late 1800 and early 1900s.

Tom's roots run deep in our community.  He summered or lived all his life where his home now stands.  (On Georgian Bay, Owen Sound, Ontario)

Anyone who knew Tom quickly learned that he was an academic at heart.  Tom was schooled at the University of Toronto Schools, a private day school, attended and graduated from U of T in history.  After graduation Tom needed to expand his learning and he succeeded in being accepted at Oxford in England to read History.  Tom attended his 60th graduation party at that school in 1997.  Needless to say there were only a few fellow graduates who managed to attend.  As part of the celebrations they were able to house Tom in the same rooms he had when there as a student.  It was a great party.  Tom enjoyed the event to the fullest.  His only comment was that he was seated beside another classmate who was so deaf that conversation was impossible.

As a child Tom had the full run of most things.  He was inventive, perhaps should have been an engineer.  But he and his mother summered at Leith, Ontario.  The fire place they built, of brick, still stands against the garden wall.  Even though Tom loved his relatives, he told me that when the rest of the family, MURRAYs or REDFERNs, came to visit his mother always seemed to find a reason to take a trip to far away Griffith Island or some other exotic place in the area.  They would camp and remain there until the family had departed.

In front of his properties lies a break wall.  Tom, along with his cousins, moved the biggest of stones, some could weigh as much as a ton.  Tom built a raft out of 5 gallon paint cans.  The raft had a hollow centre and he rigged up a windlass.  The boys would attach an ice hook affair to the rocks and were able to move them into position.  What a life he had at Paynter's Bay.

Tom served in the Army during WW II.  Not overseas, but on the home front.  He was in the Ordnance Corps as a private.  My father asked him why he did not seek a commission.  His manner and qualifications were suited for the Intelligence Corps.  His reply was that no one asked him about his education.

Tom's working career started out rather poorly.  After the army, which he loathed, Tom tried teaching.  Comparing the two professions, Tom's view was that the latter was as distasteful as the former.  Tom was a man of detail and this ability led him to join the Victoria and Grey which through many changes in name is now the Bank of Nova Scotia.

When Hal Jackson, the prime stockholder in the National Trust AKA Victoria and Grey, sold out to Bank of Nova Scotia, a number of share holders formed a group to fight the sale terms.  Tom was elected as the person who should discuss this issue with the Bank president.  Tom's persistence, which we all know, was instrumental in changing the sale conditions.  During the process the Bank president, not knowing Tom's age, sought to hire Tom.  Needless to say Tom refused

My first meeting with Tom was in the summer of 1946.  I am sure that he was not overjoyed to find out that a family of five had purchased the cottage two away from his.  However, he had rented a cottage, which was right next door to us to the PRUDHAMs.

Tom was old to my eyes, thirty, but did things that awed small boys.  Bill PRUDHAM and I did not follow him around, but stood back and watched as he undertook all manner of things.  Bill PRUDHAM, Sr. spent the month of August making up time-tables for the OSCVI.  This process was to say the least somewhat arduous.  Helen PRUDHAM, always one who sought or created solutions to solve potential problems, and knowing that Tom had experience, albeit not so pleasant, with teaching, enlisted Tom to run the Paynter's Bay summer school.  The school location was at the old picnic table under the Ash Tree.  Tom introduced us to the mysteries of Bird watching, took us on hikes back to the Leith River and pointed out the differing flora and fauna of our area.  It was something that to this day I appreciate.

Tom's days were filled with many tasks.  He looked after his mother until her death in 1953.  However, Tom had ideas for the property at Paynter's Bay.  First however he had to remove the existing cottages.  Tom's ideas were always well thought out.  In order to build a permanent home he first must find a place to live as he and his mother live year round at the cottage.  Nothing could deter him.  So he built a home which we all call Base Camp.  Tom designed the house as the property was anything but substantial.  The house, which still stands, was about 20 feet square and sits almost in the bay.  After building this house he began to remove the old cottages.

As we all know Tom was frugal in everyway.  Today you can still find around the property many items which came from those two old cottages.  However, it was the building of the current house that was unique to the ways of Tom Murray.

Tom's REDFERN relatives were in the construction business in Toronto.  Tom was neither and architect nor an engineer.  But that did not deter Tom.  He designed a home suitable for a bachelor.  Drew up the plans starting with the library wall and designing the house around his first love . . . books and flowers.  Once the design was to his liking he sent it off to Toronto to have it vetted by "professionals".  His cousin, receiving the plans sent them down to the firm's architectural department.  Some time later a rather upset Chief architect appeared in his boss's office.  He registered the fact that it was his understanding that it was solely his job to hire any architects and he was offended by the intrusion of his boss into his area of responsibilities.  After assuring him that that was not the case, the architect stated that he could find no fault with the design and that the design contained some promising concepts and who ever the Architect was would be acceptable should he be hired.

Now with that approval the saga of the house continued locally.  Many of you may remember a builder, Bill CAMPBELL.  When Tom was ready to build he called Bill and informed him of his decision.  However, he told Bill that he did not want to hire Bill, only his work force.  Tom would be the General Contractor.  He succeeded in hiring Bill's work force.  The building was not without complications.  My sympathies go out to the building inspector of the day for as you all know any "No" only drove Tom to find a way to get the what ever done.  Even today, some 40 years hence, the road department are still looking for a drain that disappeared during the building.

Tom was truly a bachelor.  His mother had died in 1953.  His dream home had been built and the gardens were developing.  Tom's life seemed to have all the necessities.  However, fate was about to intervene.  Tom took another trip to England as part of his life long quest for family roots.  In 1959 he met Katharina Elisabeth DROBNITZKY.  The romance was long distance to say the least and conducted through the Post.  They married in 1961.  But Tom's marriage, like everything else in his life, was tinted with mystery.

Tom, as we all know, was very closemouthed.  In 1961, he planned yet another trip to England, this his friends were fully aware of.  But this trip had an ulterior motive.  He trusted a dear friend with a number of envelopes, all stamped and addressed.  The instructions were to mail these on a specific day.  A number of days after the mailing the ladies of Owen Sound were in a tizzy.  The phones rang as the word was passed.  "Tom Murray has gotten married."  Typical of Tom, just an announcement completely out of the blue.  It was rumoured that as part of the marriage contract Tom would be free to play bridge each Monday night.

The Murray family grew with two sons, Harold and John.

Tom's life was surrounded with family, friends, birds, bridge, genealogical research and reading.  I am not sure just what order they fall.


Dave FIDDLER, Dave TANNAHILL, Ernie JOHNS and many other all have stories about Tom's exploits.  Peter MIDDLETON advised the birders on their web page of Tom's death.  The lines lighted up with stories of his birding exploits.  Tom's first major health set back came when birding with Dave Fiddler.  Dave refused to take him out after that.  Ernie and Fidele JOHNS became Tom's birding partners.  There are many stories about Tom's birding conquests.  He set goals which to many were almost unobtainable.  One goal was to see and identify 300 birds in Ontario in one year.  Tom did just that, even though he took three attempts to make it.  On the third attempt he managed to identify over 310 different birds in the one year period.  Tom was in contact with birders around the province and would, at phone call, mount up and head out binoculars in hand.  He would stay for days hoping to view a special bird.  Tom was reported to be one of the last living persons to see the "Bachman Warbler", which is now extinct whilst on a birding expedition to the Carolinas.

One call came in 1996.  Now Tom at this point was not the energetic birder of old.  He had had his first bought of major heart trouble.  Dave will attest to that.  But Ernie JOHNS received the call.  Ernie after a lengthy discussion with Fidele decided that yes they could take Tom to Bronte to view a "Spotted Towhey".  A bird not native to Ontario but to British Columbia.  In order to get to the viewing ground it was required that you cross a golf course.  The hike was about one mile.  With Ernie on one side and Fidele on the other they managed to get Tom to the bird, and back to the car.

Tom's birding travels took him around the world.  His life list is impressive and is only succeeded by a few.  He was a world class birder.

Birding was not his only outdoor passion.  Tom was as well an active member of the Naturalist Club.  Nelson MEHAR can attest.


Tom's garden was his pride and joy.  In the early days he managed it, but in later years it fell to Katharina, and it began to show signs of age.  However, with the discovery of Hugo BREESE, who has become a dear friend of the family, Tom's garden once again has become a show piece.  Tom's latest addition, which was part of the plan put in place forty years ago was a Pergola and walk from the road to the garden.  In his last days at home Tom would sit in this area savouring the sun and viewing his garden and his beloved bay.


What can one say about this passion.  Every Monday, many Wednesdays and the mobile Friday night games.  His bridge buddies played at the drop of a hat.  They met on Fridays at a table just out side the re-hab ward at the hospital during one of Tom stays.  They were regular visitors during his incarceration at Summit Place Nursing Home.  Bridge was a way of life.


As anyone who knew Tom can attest, reading was a passion.  All types of books.  His favourite was a mystery series set in the time of the Roman Empire.  His interest in history found him a member for a great many years of the Historical Society.  Tom was passionate about the Grey County Archives and the need to save it.

Genealogical Research:

Tom's real passion. Was he related to royalty?  This question was foremost in his thoughts.  Tom spent over fifty years researching the MURRAY family tree.  In 1997, Tom published THE FRUITFUL SHEPHERD.  A history of the Murray family.  This volume, of some 356 pages, traces some 2760 names, has become the bench mark for all other self taught genealogical researchers.  It is the bible for all MURRAY's in seeking their roots.

Tom has, unlike many of us, left a legacy on this earth.  He has influenced many persons in many fields.  His life, except for the last few years, has been full of fun, joy and accomplishment.  We may poke fun at his fugal nature, but then we are all fugal in many ways.  We may say that he was self indulgent in many of his activities.  But he gave of himself through the organizations he belonged too.  His church, this church, was recipient of this largess.  Tom could make you angry, but he could also make you laugh.  In my last conversation with him he took a position to stand on both sides of an issue.  Should he take a position however, and usually did, no one was going to make him change it.

When you get to be of Tom's age the number of men of similar age are few in number.  Tom until the last few years managed to keep up with and to sponsor friendships with younger men of similar interests.  That enabled Tom to keep abreast of current trends.

Tom farewell.  Your anger over your health state is over.  We know that a place at the bridge table is waiting, and all the birds, that are extinct, are waiting for your discovery.

William F. TAYLOR then took his place with the other pall bearers and Tom's casket was carried out of the church to the awaiting hearse.  The hearse pulled away and just as it approached the traffic signal, the light turned green.  Someone on the church steps was heard to exclaim, "That figures, Tom is still taking care of all the details."

Just before the hearse disappeared down the road, Katharina, standing on the top step of the church, waved a warm goodbye to her husband.  One could sense that it was the same way Katharina had waved to Tom so many times in the past.  Katharina was seeing Tom off on yet another adventure.