William Henry Murray

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For William Henry Davis Murray, aka "Alfalfa Bill", see William H. Murray. For William H. Murray the Medal of Honor recipient, see William H. Murray (Medal of Honor recipient).

The Scottish actor-manager William Henry Murray (1790 to 1852) was a friend of Walter Scott particularly associated with dramatisations of Scott's Waverley Novels.

Born at Bath, he moved to Edinburgh in 1809 and worked there for over forty years as an actor, manager and dramatist. Around that time (1809), he married Anne Dyke, the sister of tragedienne Mary Ann Duff, but she died soon after the marriage.[1]He managed the Theatre Royal by the "North Bridge", at first jointly with Henry Siddons (son of Sarah Siddons), then after 1816 on his own.

He was the son of the actor and dramatist Charles Murray, and grandson of the Jacobite Sir John Murray of Broughton who, when captured after the Battle of Culloden, saved his life by betraying his fellow Jacobites then lived out his life in Edinburgh as a haunted and hated figure. Walter Scott's father as a lawyer had professional dealings with the old man, but on one occasion after his wife brought tea, he afterwards threw the cup out the window saying, "Neither lip of me nor of mine comes after Murray of Broughton's." This incident may have later contributed to Scott's antiquarian interest in the family and friendship with William Henry Murray.

When Scott was preparing for the visit of King George IV to Scotland in 1822 he was quick to draw on Murray's expertise for the management of events. Murray created the settings at various venues, contrived the "revived ancient dresses" and arranged the "traditional" pageants. He was particularly acclaimed for his success in transforming the Assembly Rooms in George Street into a theatrical palace for the Peers' Grand Ball, an event that was pivotal in making the tartan kilt which had been thought of as the primitive dress of mountain thieves into the national dress of the whole of Scotland. The King's last and least formal public appearance during the visit to Edinburgh was at a theatre performance of Scott's Rob Roy adapted and produced by Murray.


  1. ^ Joseph Norton Ireland (1882) Mrs. Duff, James R. Osgood and Co., Boston