Chic Murray

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Charles Thomas McKinnon "Chic" Murray (6 November 1919 – 29 January 1985), was a Scottish comedian and actor. He appeared in various roles on British television and film – most notably in the 1967 version of Casino Royale – and portrayed Liverpool Football Club manager Bill Shankly in a musical. In 2005, he was named in The Comedian's Comedian.

Life and career[edit]

Murray was born in Greenock, Inverclyde. He began his career as a musician in amateur groups such as "The Whinhillbillies" and "Chic and His Chicks" while an apprentice at the Kincaid shipyard, Inverclyde, in 1934. Maidie Dickson was already a seasoned star in her own right (having worked since she was 3 with many of the great stars of the time), when she was playing the Greenock Empire. Chic's mother was the welfare officer and put Maidie up in her home. Subsequently, Maidie gave Chic parts within her own act and he formed a double-act with her. Billed as "The Tall Droll with the Small Doll" (he was 6'3" tall, she was 4'11") and also as "Maidie and Murray", their combination of jokes and songs made them popular on television and in theatres throughout the country. Their success peaked in 1956 when they were selected to appear in the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium, but, due to the Suez Crisis, the show was cancelled. Maidie and Chic had had much success at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London.

Later, working as a solo act, with a forbidding expression and omnipresent bunnet, Murray offered a comic vision of the world that was absurd and surreal. One example was his early-1970s BBC Scotland series Chic's Chat, where his version of acting as DJ for the (occasional) records he played was unique. The show also featured surreal dialogues with a "man at the window" of his studio – played by Willie Joss – who invariably referred to Murray by the name of "Chips". Another was his eccentrically decorated hotel in the Bruntsfield area of Edinburgh, which did not outlive the 1980s.

Much-mimicked and much-loved by his fellow professionals,[peacock term] Murray acted in films such as Casino Royale and Gregory's Girl, in which he played a Scottish secondary school headmaster. He also played former Liverpool Football Club manager Bill Shankly in the musical play You'll Never Walk Alone. Just prior to the show opening, Murray claimed to have telephoned the switchboard at Anfield using his Shankly voice, causing the receptionist – who had worked there in the Shankly years – to burst into tears on hearing the great man's voice once more. He also made cameo appearances as an itinerant poacher in a few episodes of STV's soap Take The High Road (1984) and appeared alongside Judi Dench in Saigon: Year of the Cat (1983). He died in Edinburgh in 1985 at the age of sixty-five, ironically next door to his former wife Maidie's bedroom (they had divorced in the 1970s but remained on good terms). Maidie died peacefully at the home she had shared with Chic for many years on 10 May 2010; her family were with her.

Legacy[edit]

  • In 2005, Murray was named in The Comedian's Comedian, a poll where comedians chose their favourite or most influential comedian.
  • Neither Here nor There is a BBC Radio 2 programme about Murray's life, devised and scripted by Simon Treves and originally broadcast in August 2007.

Further reading[edit]

  • Robbie Grigor, Just Daft: The Chic Murray Story (Birlinn, 2008), ISBN 1-84158-755-9.
  • Andrew Yule, The Best Way to Walk: The Chic Murray Story (Mainstream Publishing, 1989), ISBN 1-85158-218-5.
  • Andrew Yule, The Best Way to Laugh: The Chic Murray Bumper Fun Book (Corgi, 1991), ISBN 0-552-13854-1.

Selected filmography[edit]

External links[edit]