© Noel Harrower 2015
Made with Xara11 Premium Noel harrower
Jonathan Anderson Murray
                  The family of Jonathan Anderson Murray of Barton Moss                                          James Murray m Agnes McDonald                                                                       I          Mary Ann Knowles  m  Jonathan Anderson Murray  m  Emma Pierce.                             I                                                 I            I                  I             James Anderson                            Harriet   Jessie    Herbert Anderson                          Jonathan Anderson Murray was born in Glasgow, where he was christened on 4th Dec 1842. The hungry forties have left their reputation as a time of poverty and despair for many working people. Thousands were forced by deprivation to leave their homes to find work in places that were prospering, and Manchester at that time received a flood of immigrants from Scotland, Ireland and other places, because there was work to be had here in the booming cotton industry.  The Murray family must have hoped to better their chances in Lancashire at this time. Jonathan’s parents, James and Agnes, had originally lived in rural Lanark and most probably earned their living through sheep farming, wool gathering and weaving on a home loom. Industrialisation may have forced them towards the big woollen mills in Glasgow, but as work became more mechanised, fewer hands were needed and a flood of starving Irish folk, desperate for work at any price, may well have led to depressed wages. Whatever the reason, the Murrays moved to Manchester, where their skills may have brought more money into the home to feed the growing family, and the Census return for 1851 records that 8 year old Jonathan was a scholar living with his parents and siblings at Rayner St. Court, Ancoats(?). His father was a pattern maker, and his elder brother, John, was a hooker in a cotton mill. The next glimpse we get of him is at the age of 17, when he made a very youthful marriage to 19-year-old Mary Ann Knowles on 24th August, 1860, in Manchester Cathedral. James is described as a warehouse packer, living at 26, Humphrey’s Rd, Chorlton-on-Medlock. This was probably a hasty arrangement because, in the following November, the young couple had a son whom they christened James Anderson, choosing to continue traditional family names. This time the place of residence is that of Mary’s parents, 74, Juniper St., Hulme. Sadly, the child’s mother died on 8th August, 1868, when James was only 7-years-old. Jonathan was active in the Manchester 3rd Manchester Rifle Volunteers, who assisted the police on occasions when there were riots and disturbances. He became a sergeant and moved to live in the premises at the rifle range in Barton Moss, where the guns were stored for rifle practice. On 21 December, 1872, Jonathan married his second wife, Emma Pierce.  They had three children, Harriet, Jessie and Herbert Anderson, but it is possible that James was unhappy at home after the loss of his mother, because, when we next hear of him, he is a ship’s boy in the merchant navy. Did he run away to sea or did he go with his parents’ consent? We do not know, but according to documents I hold, he served on a square-rigged sailing ship from the Port of Liverpool, which he joined in November 1874 when he was just 14-years-old. After one year’s service he was promoted to the rank of ordinary seaman. He sailed on two voyages across the Atlantic with the barque Craignair. After only eighteen months as an ordinary seaman, he qualified to serve as an apprentice 3rd Mate on the ship Maintainer. After three years service in this capacity, he was issued with a certificate in the port of Dundee which approved him capable of holding the post of 2nd Mate. He sailed from Liverpool in this capacity on the Spirit of the Dawn for a further twenty months, and finally qualified as a Master Mariner on the 17th May 1887. (I am looking at a copy of the certificate now, signed by his examiner on behalf of the Registrar of Shipping and Seamen, based in London.) James Murray was only 27-years-old and surely young to take command of a ship. By this time, his father Jonathan was no more. He had died at his home on the rifle range on 20 February 1881 and the death certificate reports that his younger brother James was present at the end. The cause of death is given as acute phthisis, and notes that this condition had troubled Jonathan for the past three years. It is likely that his lung condition was caused through working in the cotton mills and warehouses. He was buried at St. John’s parish church, Irlam, in the same grave as his first wife, Mary Ann. Emma was left with three young children to support, Harriet (7), Jessie (5), and Herbert(3). How she fared, we do not know but the children went on to live full lives, leaving a train of descendants. On May 19th, 1892, Captain James Murray married Emily Blanche Blythe Shickle at Stretford Parish Church, Manchester. He was 30 and his bride was 27, being the daughter of Professor John Blythe Shickle, a Professor of Music. The couple’s address was given as 65, Oxford St.  His career as a master mariner continued to thrive. He commenced work with the Canadian Pacific line, which ran the leading transatlantic passenger ships across the Atlantic. In 1906, he became the captain of two of the most prestigious ships, the Empress of Ireland and later that year, the newly-built Empress of Britain, which was the largest ship in their fleet. He sailed it on the maiden voyage from Liverpool to Quebec. This luxury liner, built by Fairfields of Glasgow was equipped with electric lights and wireless and had four decks. He was to command this ship for forty three voyages. James Murray had the honour of hosting royalty on the Empress of Britain, including the Duke of Connaught, the third son of Queen Victoria. (I have in my possession a copy of a cable sent by Captain Murray to my mother -then a small child- from the Empress of Britain, and a copy of a radio greeting he received from the Duke of Connaught when he sailed by on a passing liner.) This was not the only link between the Murray family and seafaring. Jonathan’s older brother John had a son called Arthur, who also joined the mercantile fleet. He also became a captain and most strangely in the months of May and June 1906, he was also given command of the Empress of Britain and later that year and in 1907 he was master of the Empress of Ireland for two of her Atlantic crossings.  Arthur Murray had earlier served on the Monmouth, and later in 1908, he took command of ships on Lake Champlain, Canada, bordering the coast of USA. I was told as a child that, during the First World War, he also took part in a campaign to protect the fleet by acting as a decoy on a dummy-warship. This must have been a very brave thing to do. There is some documentary evidence that he was in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve during this period. (I remember meeting his elderly widow, who was visiting my Aunt Edith in London in the 1950s.) Returning to Captain James Murray, on retirement in 1914, he decided to take his family to Canada. They settled in Quebec with their children. (Their daughter, Phyllis, was still writing letters to my aunt, Clare, when I was a boy.) James became harbour-master in Quebec. During the winter months he was posted to Halifax, Nova Scotia, because when the ice froze over on the St. Laurence, this was the place to which most of the ships were diverted. It was here that he was killed during the First World War – at 9.06am on December 6th 1917, when two ships collided in the harbour basin, one of them carrying ammunition. The whole drama has been fully recorded in a book called “The Town that Died” by Michael Bird, who wrote:  “Lieutenant Commander James Murray… as Transport Officer responsible for liaison between the Port Convoy Office and all the merchant ships, was excellently suited for this work as he had been master of the liner ‘Empress of Britain’…on realising the imminence of a terrible disaster Murray urged the Hilford (on which he was travelling) towards Pier 9 and his office, from which he could telephone a general warning…Murray took the four feet of water that still separated the Hilford from the shore with a running jump and then, without pausing, sprinted away towards his office.” The tremendous explosion, which followed seconds later, erased one square mile of Halifax and has been called “the greatest disaster ever to befall a Canadian City.”  James Murray died whilst attempting to raise the alert.   All this is very much in the past, but to bring this story up to date, four descendants of this family now have contacts with the Manchester Family History Society, and indeed it is through the MFHS that we have all discovered one another. Tessa Szczepanik descends directly from Jonathan’s older brother John, via his son Joseph, grandson Leonard, (who both worked for the textile firm Horrockses) great grandson, Peter, and great-great-granddaughter Lynette. Tessa is a professional genealogist and lives in Kent. Dorothy Adams, who lives at Hazel Grove, descends from Jonathan’s daughter Harriet who married George Henry Woodruff, via their daughter, Mona. Barbara Sellers, who lives in Disley, descends from his son Herbert Anderson Murray, via his daughter, Beatrice. I live in Devon and descend from James Murray, the younger brother of Jonathan, via his youngest daughter, Elsie. So it has been possible for this story to be told again through our collective knowledge and research. The tale goes on in the 21st Century.                                                                                                          Noel Harrower
Website by Rob Masding