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Murray, Sybil

Lady Sybil Maud Murray (1863-1929) lived with her family in Cheltenham from approximately 1914 until her death in 1929. There seems to have been no immediate connection between any of the three Murray families who at various times lived in Beecroft and Cheltenham. The family of Lady Murray (as she became) was one of great distinction.

Lady Murray was born near Picton on the family property Nepean Towers. She was the daughter of Richard Lewis Jenkins (1816-1883) and Mary Rae (nee Johnstone). Her father had been born in Newport Wales, where he worked on family farms and gained qualifications (MRCS and LSA (London)) in medicine. Because of health concerns he migrated to NSW in 1841 and set up a medical practice in the Hunter. He also started investing in farms and by 1848 owned three properties on the Liverpool Plains – Woolooma, Piallamore and Woomoromurra Stations. Again, for health reasons he left the Hunter region and re-located to Sydney in 1857. Between 1858 and 1860 he was a member of the NSW Parliament and advocated strongly for universal public education and reformatory schools for boys. Again, his health necessitated his departure from Macquarie Street and in 1860 he purchased some 5000 acres at Douglas Park, south of Penrith on the Nepean River and called his new, and very grand, home Nepean Towers. He concentrated on improving the quality of his cattle, especially short horned cattle, and his champion bull ‘Theodore’ won first prize at the Sydney Royal Agriculture show three years in a row. It was said of him that “he was born of gentle birth and high culture, broad views, advanced ideas and of philanthropic mind” [1].

Richard and Mary Jenkins had a family of 5 boys and 5 girls. Almost 20 years after his death litigation established that the value of even a small portion of his estate was estimated to exceed quarter of a million pounds [2].

Lady Murray married John Hubert Plunkett (Hubert) Murray (1861-1940) on 17 July 1889 in Woollahra – by which time she was already (as a result of the death of her father) a wealthy woman.

Her husband, Hubert, was the son of Sir Terence Aubrey Murray and his second wife Agnes Ann (nee Edwards). His father already had a son, James Aubrey Gibbes Murray (1857-1933) from his first wife. James and his daughter re-appear later in this story.

Sir Terence at one time owned stations called Yarralumla and Winderradeen with the former of these now being the home of the Governor-General of Australia in the ACT. But unlike Lady Murray’s father, Sir Terence lost his wealth and from 1865 lived almost entirely on his salary as President of the Legislative Council within the NSW Parliament. When Sir Terence died in 1873 he left no assets [3]. His (second wife and) widow (who had arrived in the Colony as the governess of the Murray family following the death of Sir Terence’s first wife) ran a school in their rented home in Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst prior to purchasing the nearby girls school, “Springfield”. At the age of 9, Hubert sailed to a preparatory school in Melbourne before returning in 1872 to attend Sydney Grammar – where he excelled at sport and in 1877 became school captain.  

Hubert remained in Sydney for 12 months, while his mother and younger brother (Gilbert) travelled to England for Gilbert’s education. After Hubert followed his family to England he attended Brighton College, learnt German in a Rhineland academy (1880-1881) before attending Oxford where he graduated in 1886 with first class honours in Greats (French and German). Hubert then read for the Bar at Inner Temple as well as playing rugby for the Harlequins and won (in 1886) the English amateur heavyweight boxing title. Meanwhile, his brother Gilbert graduated from Oxford in 1888 before going on to become established as a brilliant Classical scholar – appointed a professor for the first time at the age of 23 years and then in 1908 the Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford. Gilbert married Lady Mary Henrietta Howard of Castle Howard Yorkshire in 1889 [4].

Hubert did not practice law in London but returned to Sydney in 1886 at which time he had a commanding physique being 89 kg, 191 cm, broad shouldered and agile. He joined chambers in Phillip Street Sydney but initially barely practiced and instead utilised his time by drinking heavily. He lived on his wife’s income which he supplemented by being variously a parliamentary draftsman (1892), Crown prosecutor (1896) and ‘although he had not entirely lived down the infamy of having been at Oxford’ (as noted by his mother) a litigation practice in NSW country towns.

In 1891 Hubert and Lady Murray were living in Parramatta where their eldest child was born. The following year their second son, Hubert Rae, dies as an infant.

In January 1900 he sailed for Cape Town as a special service officer in command of a troop ship. He served during the Boer War for 10 months and rose to be a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Australian Forces and a major in the Imperial service together with commendations both as an administrator and in action. While serving, his wife and family re-located to live in London. His son Patrick was born on 18 June 1900 at Dorchester, Dorset, England. Hubert recorded that he hated ‘the whole business’ of the War and afterwards returned to Sydney. While not doubting that he hated the war, this time proved a milestone in his life. Not only did it lead to career advancement but in 1902 he determined to be (and continued for the recent of his life) both abstemious and a practising Catholic [5].

In 1904 he was appointed as the chief judicial officer of British New Guinea – when his referees included Sir Edmund Barton, Australia’s first Prime Minister but by this time a Judge of the High Court. Lady Murray, Hubert and their three children arrived in Port Moresby in September 1904 for Hubert to take up his appointment. Despite initial plans to remain longer, Lady Murray and the children remained for just a week before returning to Sydney. Lady Murray rarely returned to New Guinea and as a result did not live in the official residence in Port Moresby during the next 20 years despite Hubert going on to become (in 1908) the Lieutenant Governor for the remainder of this time.  Hubert was appointed CMG in 1914 and then KCMG in 1925. Sybil therefore became Lady Murray in 1925 and she used her title, for example, in the John Sands Directory from this date.

While, as noted, Lady Murray returned from Port Moresby to Sydney her eldest son was at the same time sent to attend St John’s Preparatory School in Beaumont Old Windsor in England. By 1914 the electoral rolls record her as living in Hobart. Also in 1914 her eldest son commences high school in Sydney.

Finally in that same year of 1914, Florence Evelyn Murray (1883-1976), who was the daughter of James Aubrey Gibbes Murray (as noted above the half-brother of Hubert) married Charles Grant Garrioch at Ryde. Florence and her new husband bought and moved into a home Brackland, 61 Cheltenham Road Cheltenham. By 1917 the John Sands Directory shows that her father (James) was living with them in this property.

Charles Grant Garrioch, prior to the marriage, had been a public servant in Papua in a number of roles including in 1907 as the Clerk to the Executive Council and in 1909 Clerk to the Legislative Council. By the time he had finished his sojourn in Papua in 1913 he was the private secretary to Hubert – the uncle of the lady who became his wife [6]. After his return to Sydney, Garrioch became a public servant in the Commonwealth Department of Territories – which position he held until 1919 when he transferred to the Prime Minister’s Department [7].

Another young man who served in the Papuan Civil Service was Charles Robert Pinney. Born (in 1883) and raised in Victoria he joined the Papuan Public Service in 1906. While there he also joined the Port Moresby Armed Constabulary, the 4th Light Horse Regiment. He then joined the Australian Army on 24 September 1914 and served at Gallipoli and elsewhere. He was wounded (at Lone Pine), and both mentioned in despatches and awarded the Military Cross in 1917 for “conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when in charge of a company in an attack. Although the attacking platoon suffered severely on lining up, the position was taken without a hitch and a counter attack dispersed.” He finished the war as a Captain. While on leave in London on 30 January 1918 in Kensington he married Mary Desmond Murray (1895-1979), the only daughter of Lady Murray and Hubert. The Pinney’s daughter, Maura, was born in Kensington in October 1918. Captain Pinney then remained in London as he was appointed to AIF Headquarters and didn’t return to Sydney until 16 December 1919.

Following World War 1, Pinney returned to Papua where he was Chief Draughtsman and Staff Surveyor (1920), Commissioner for Lands (1927) and member of the Executive and Legislative Council (1930). From at least 1920 to 1924 his wife was mostly living in Brackland, 61 Cheltenham Road Cheltenham. Their son, Peter Patrick Pinney (born 1922 at Cheltenham) and daughter Maura each grew up in the Cheltenham home.

In 1933 the electoral roll records Mary Desmond Pinney as still living in the Cheltenham home. In 1935 Pinney becomes Administrator of Norfolk Island and he and his wife relocate to Government House, Norfolk Island. When his term of office expires they live in the Southern Highlands of NSW, at Buckleberry, Burradoo Road, Bowral [8].

Maura became a midwifery nurse and eventually lived with her mother in Bowral.

Accordingly, during the 1920s, living in the home on the corner of Cheltenham and Beecroft Road was the Garrioch family (when not also living in Canberra with Mrs Garrioch being the niece of Lady Murray), James A G Murray (the father of Mrs Garrioch and step brother-in-law of Lady Murray), the Pinney family (with Captain Pinney living largely in Papua and Mrs Pinney being the daughter of Lady Murray), together for some of the time Patrick (one of Lady Murray’s sons) and Lady Murray herself (until her death in 1929) but with Hubert living almost entirely in Port Moresby and often holidaying in England.

James A G Murray dies in Ivanhoe in 1933.

Apart from her daughter, Mary Desmond, Lady Murray had three sons: Terence Desmond Murray, Hubert Rae and Patrick Desmond Fitzgerald Murray.

Brigadier General Terence Murray CBR DSO MC (1891-1961) was born in Parramatta and entered the British Army and remained living in England. He served in World War 1 with the Royal Canadians and others and commanded a Tank Regiment during World War 2. He married (1917) Phillipa Chevalier Kitchener (1895-1989) the niece of Viscount Kitchener and daughter of Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Walter Kitchener. They had two daughters: Molly Patricia Murray (1920-1981) and Sheila Chevalier Desmond Murray (b 1926).

Hubert Rae died at 13 days in 1892.

Dr Patrick Murray had been born while his father was in South Africa and his mother was living in England. He attended preparatory school in England but then in 1914 commenced high school at St Ignatius College (‘Riverview’). This is clearly a momentus family year for his mother, Lady Murray, as the extended family for once largely gathers in Cheltenham – but with most husbands elsewhere.

Patrick Murray graduates from the University of Sydney BSc in 1924 and DSc in 1926. He graduated with first class honours in botany and zoology and the university medal for zoology. He then obtains a BSc in experimental embryology at Magdalen College Oxford in 1924. He studied under Professor Goldrich and Mr T H Huxley. In that same year he returns to Sydney where in 1924 he becomes the Macleay Fellow of the Linnean Society and a lecturer in zoology at the University of Sydney. He marries Margery Holland (also a University of Sydney graduate in Science) at St Marys Catholic Cathedral in Sydney on 14 March 1925. He held a number of appointments at overseas universities before becoming a reader in biology and comparative anatomy a St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London between 1939 and 1949. His research during those years was on the effect of nutrition (especially vitamin C) on bone development. In 1949 he returned to University of Sydney as the Challis Professor of Zoology and resigned that chair in 1960 to become reader in zoology at the University of New England – presumably to concentrate upon research rather than administrative tasks. In 1967 he sailed to England to continue his studies in Cambridge but died at sea. He and his first wife divorced and he subsequently re-married. He left no children.

Patrick Murray’s sister, Mary Pinney, left these notes on the early life of her brother:

“Our mother was Sybil Jenkins, daughter of Dr Jenkins of Nepean Towers, Douglas Park, near Sydney (now St Mary’s Towers, and a monastery). Pat was the youngest child, Terence being ten years his senior, and I was that most irritating of creatures, a sister four years older than Pat, who knew everything and said so. Pat was born in Dorchester, England, where my mother had trekked from Australia with her two children, our father being then engaged with the Boer War.

1901 found Pat, aged one year and just starting to walk, in Brussels with his mother, Terence, and myself. The idea was to learn French. All I can remember of this period is a very nice tortoise and Belgian school children spitting at Terence on his way to school. From Brussels Pat was taken back to England and after a period spent settling Terence into school, to Australia. We then lived at various places in NSW, and finally settled at Manly near Sydney. Here Pat began to impinge upon my memory as a small, quiet, but determined child, struggling gamely against the authority of a French governess. His interest in insects began to show itself, possibly because I was already keeping caterpillars that were dressed up in pink bows round their waists for visits to our maternal grandmother. We also had grasshoppers tethered to blades of grass on the lawn, and Pat thought these pets wonderful. He was a kind child and wept sadly with me when we found our pet hopper a frail skeleton, eaten by ants. We should never have been allowed to keep these unfortunates, but perhaps they were sacrifices on the altar of peace and quiet. Our father was living with us at Manly and that was about the only period when I can remember a home with father permanently in it. Terence was in England. This home was eventually abandoned and my mother, Pat, and I moved back to England. Pat then attended St Johns College and later Beaumont College. In 1914 he was back in Australia at Riverview College, Sydney. He was educated as a Catholic, as we all were, but later left the Church.

Now 14 years old Pat was definitely dedicated. When older boys were playing cricket he would be discovered on hands and knees discoursing earnestly with ants, and all many strange beasts lived in his pockets. This aspect of his younger son’s character was a disappointment to his father, whose tastes lay in the direction of sport, for which in his youth he collected a number of medals, and the Marquess of Queensberry’s Cup for Amateur Boxing. But in spite of these contrary interests Pat and his father were great friends and no influence was brought to bear on Pat to change his interests.

Pat was the best kind of brother. He did not interfere but his hand was always outstretched to help. He was quiet and rather shy, an easy person to have about the house, making no demands. At the same time he was capable of becoming the life of a party and he had a quiet humour and a wit that was never malicious. I cannot remember him ever being willingly unkind to man or beast” [9].

Lady Murray dies in Cheltenham in 1929 even though her probate papers give her address as British New Guinea. She is buried in the Catholic Section, Macquarie Park. Hubert was in England at the time but sought to come to Sydney as soon as he could [10].

Of Murray’s grandchildren (by her daughter Mary Desmond Pinney), the son, Peter Patrick Pinney (1922-1992) born in Cheltenham, was a noted writer on the Pacific and his papers are in the Fryer Library, University of Queensland.

[1]   The Queenslander, 4 October 1873 p 5; Newcastle Sun, 9 July 1938 p7.

[2]   Daily Telegraph, 11 March 1909 p10; The Star, 15 March 1909 p 12.

[3]   G Wilson, “Murray, Sir Terence Aubrey Murray (1810-1873),” Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1967) Vol 2 pp 274-277.

[4]   H N Nelson “Murray, Sir John Hubert Plunkett (1861-1940) colonial administrator and George Gilbert Aime (1866-1957) scholar,” Australian Dictionary of Biography (Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1986) Vol 10 pp 645-648. While totally unrelated this establishes a (tenuous) link between Castle Howard Road as a road in Beecroft as well as the castle in England. See under Streets on this website why a road in Beecroft is named after a castle in England.

[5]   F J West “Towards a biography of Sir Hubert Murray”, Pacific Historical Review (May 1962) Vol 31 No 2 pp 151-168.

[6]   Papua Government Gazette, 6 November 1907 p 111 and 7 July 1909; Daily Telegraph, 4 October 1913 p9; Papuan Times, 26 June 1912, p2.

[7]   Canberra Times, 5 January 1929 p 4.

[8]   London Gazette 25 April 1918 Supp 30651; Australian War Memorial Records WWI Service Records; Who’s Who 1935.

[9]   W P Rogers, “Peter Desmond Fitzgerald Murray 1900-1967” on the website of the Australian Academy of Science accessed 7 February 2023. Originally published in Records of the Australian Academy of Science (1968) vol 1 no 3.

[10] Daily Telegraph, 25 February 1929 p 7; NSW Supreme Court, Index to Deceased Estate Files # 40961.