Basil Murray

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Basil Andrew Murray (1902 – 1937), was a British editor, journalist and Liberal Party politician.


Murray was the second son of the scholar Professor Gilbert and Lady Mary Howard, daughter of the 9th Earl of Carlisle. He was educated at Charterhouse School and New College, Oxford (Classical Scholarship and Charles Oldham Prize). In 1927 he married Pauline Mary Newton, daughter of the artist of Algernon Newton.[1] Their daughters were the writers Ann Paludan (1928-2014) and Venetia Murray (1932–2004). His sister Rosalind was the first wife of Arnold J. Toynbee.

Professional career[edit]

Murray was Editor of Oxford Outlook from 1920-23. He was Equerry to H.I.H. Yasuhito, Prince Chichibu of Japan during his visit to Europe.[2] As a journalist, he covered the Spanish Civil War from the Republican side, making radio broadcasts from Valencia.

Political career[edit]

Murray was employed at the Liberal Campaign Department in 1927.[3] He was Liberal candidate at the St Marylebone by-election, 1928. He was Liberal candidate for the Argyllshire division at the 1929 and 1935 General Elections.[4]

Murray became involved in anti-Fascist politics after Hitler's rise to power and in 1936 managed to incite a riot by heckling the British fascist Oswald Mosley during a speech at Oxford University.[5] He was subsequently tried and convicted of breach of the peace in a proceeding described by the philosopher Isaiah Berlin as a disastrous miscarriage of justice.[6]

Electoral record[edit]

St Marylebone by-election, 1928
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Unionist Rt Hon. James Rennell Rodd 12,859 56.1
Labour David Amyas Ross 6,721 29.4
Liberal Basil Andrew Murray 3,318 14.5
Majority 6,138 26.7
Turnout 53,107 43.1
Unionist hold Swing
General Election 1929: Argyllshire[7]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Unionist Frederick Alexander Macquisten 11,108 44.1 −2.1
Liberal Basil Andrew Murray 8,089 32.1 +1.0
Labour James Laird Kinloch 6,001 23.8 +1.1
Majority 3,019 12.0
Turnout 25,198 62.7 0.0
Unionist hold Swing -1.6
General Election 1935: Argyllshire [8]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Unionist Frederick Alexander Macquisten 13,260 53.6 N/A
Liberal Basil Andrew Murray 11,486 46.4 N/A
Majority 1,774 7.2
Turnout 24,746 56.6 N/A
Unionist hold Swing N/A

Murray provided Evelyn Waugh with the model and first name for his anti-hero, Basil Seal, star of the novels Black Mischief and Put Out More Flags.[9]

He died in Spain, purportedly of pneumonia. According to a memoir by journalist Claud Cockburn, however, Murray was bitten to death by his pet ape while lying in a drunken stupor in a Valencia hotel.[10]. An alternative, and much more scandalous account in which he caught the pneumonia from close contact with the female ape, is given by Sefton Delmer, who devotes six pages to it.[11]


  1. ^ The Liberal Year Book, 1929
  2. ^ The Liberal Year Book, 1929
  3. ^ The Liberal Year Book, 1929
  4. ^ British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949, FWS Craig
  5. ^ Anne De Courcy, Diana Mosley: Mitford Beauty, British Fascist, Hitler's Angel (2003), pp. 163-64.
  6. ^ Isaiah Berlin, Letters 1928–1946, vol. 1, p. 179.
  7. ^ The Times, 3 June 1929
  8. ^ Whitaker's Almanack, 1939
  9. ^ Robert Reginald Garnett, From Grimes to Brideshead (1990), p. 86.
  10. ^ Claud Cockburn at 100, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 November 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-16. 
  11. ^ 'Trail Sinister' Secker and Warburg 1961 pp 337-343