Terence Aubrey Murray

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Terence Aubrey Murray
Terrence Aubrey Murray.jpg
Member of Parliament
for electoral district of Argyle
In office
Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly
In office
Personal details
Born (1810-05-10)10 May 1810
Limerick, Ireland
Died 22 June 1873(1873-06-22) (aged 63)
Darlinghurst, New South Wales
Nationality Australian

Sir Terence Aubrey Murray (10 May 1810 – 22 June 1873) was an Australian pastoralist, parliamentarian and knight of the realm of Irish birth. He had the double distinction of being, at separate times, both the Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly and the President of the New South Wales Legislative Council. From 1837 to 1859 he owned the Yarralumla estate, which now serves as the official Canberra residence of the Governor-General of Australia.

Early years and background[edit]

Terence Aubrey Murray was born in Limerick, Ireland, into a patriotic and politically aware Roman Catholic family. His mother, Ellen Murray (née Fitzgerald), died at Saint-Omer in France when Terence was still a child. His father, also named Terence, served as a paymaster in the British Army, enjoying the commissioned rank of captain. Young Terence had two older siblings, James (who trained as a surgeon), and Anna Maria (who married farmer and grazier George Bunn, of Braidwood, New South Wales).

Paymaster Murray (1781–1835) had travelled with his regiment on a posting to the Australian colony of New South Wales in 1817 and later, in 1825, to India. In 1827, the Murray family decided to move permanently to New South Wales to take advantage of the free land grants being made to military officers by the colonial government. They arrived in Sydney in April 1827 on the Elizabeth and leased a house at Erskine Park as a temporary measure.[1]

Around 1829, Murray acquired his first farming and grazing land near the village of Collector, south-west of Sydney. His main property was situated alongside Lake George. He called it Winderradeen. Murray added to his country estates in 1837 when he purchased another large sheep-grazing property, Yarralumla, on the Limestone Plains (in what is now the Australian Capital Territory). Today, Yarralumla is the site of the official residence of the Governor-General of Australia.[2] Murray also acquired the Coolamine outstation, where he could graze his sheep in cooler conditions during the hot summer months.

Political career[edit]

With the establishment of a partially representative parliament in the colony in 1843, Murray resolved to pursue a political career. He was elected unopposed to the New South Wales Legislative Council, representing the Counties of Murray, King and Georgiana. During the ensuing years, he played a prominent role in parliamentary debates and proceedings. In 1856, a fully representative Legislative Assembly was established with the introduction of responsible government. Murray was duly elected to it, representing the electoral district of Southern Boroughs and, from 1859, Argyle. In 1856-1858, he sat in the New South Wales cabinet as the Secretary for Lands and Works. At one point, Murray had the opportunity to form a ministry with himself heading up the government as premier. But the move failed when Murray was unable to enlist the support of sufficient Members of Parliament, a number of whom disliked him, finding him intellectually arrogant.

From 1860 to 1862, Murray served as an extremely effective and genuinely impartial Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. Towards the end of 1862, he was appointed for life to the Legislative Council, which was the Upper House of the New South Wales Parliament. He would serve as a distinguished President of the Council until his death in 1873.[3]

Murray was a highly intelligent, extremely well-read country "squire". He owned an extensive library of books, a fine collection of furniture and other household possessions, and a comparatively liberal (if sometimes outspokenly opinionated) view of society and its institutions. He was tall in stature with red hair, a swaggering walk and an imposing physical presence. Murray was also an outstanding horseman and bushman who, at the same time, liked to pursue the comfortable lifestyle of a prosperous "landed gentleman", drawing rents from the tenant farmers who occupied a large portion of Yarralumla after the abolition of assigned convict labour in the early 1840s.

Marriage to Minnie Gibbes[edit]

On 27 May 1843, Murray married into the Anglo-colonial establishment when he wed Mary "Minnie" Gibbes (1817–1858) at St James' Anglican Church, Sydney. English-born Mary went to live with her new husband (whom she called "Aubrey") at Yarralumla homestead; but being a cultivated and gregarious young lady, she found it extremely hard to adjust to rural life in the lonely and uncouth Australian countryside. She was also physically frail, and the six pregnancies that she experienced during the time of her marriage to Murray badly weakened her constitution, leaving her vulnerable to infection. At the time of Mary's wedding, Murray had settled a moiety of his landed property on her in case he should ever become bankrupt as a result of drought or economic depression. When 40-year-old Mary died suddenly at Winderradeen homestead on 2 January 1858, this arrangement put Murray in a difficult situation because control of Yarralumla and a key part of Winderradeen now passed to the trustees of Mary's estate. Murray wanted to sell some of the land but he could not do so without the trustees' permission. The trustees included Murray's father-in-law, Colonel John George Nathaniel Gibbes (1787-1873), who was a member of the colonial legislature and the Collector of Customs for NSW, and Murray's brother-in-law, Augustus Onslow Manby Gibbes (1828–1897), who was the manager of Yarralumla. (A third trustee, the politician, landowner and founder of the University of Sydney Sir Charles Nicholson, would return to England to live in 1862 and cease to be involved in Murray's affairs.)

In July 1859, Murray sold Yarralumla, all its buildings and its livestock to Augustus Onslow Manby Gibbes in order to raise cash. He continued, however, to reside at Winderradeen, the sale of which his late wife's trustees blocked repeatedly, much to Murray's growing annoyance. Regrettably, the dispute over the protracted non-sale of Winderradeen eventually spilled over into the NSW Supreme Court in 1868, when Murray tried without success to oust the trustees and replace them with people more sympathetic to his needs. This acrimonious legal action widened an existing rift between Murray on the one hand, and Colonel Gibbes and his wife Elizabeth on the other. Mrs Gibbes was particularly hostile towards Murray because she felt that he had contributed to her daughter Mary's early death by keeping her sequestered away on his country properties, far from Sydney and the better standard of medical care that was available there. The Gibbes trustees had also felt it was their duty not to rush into the sale of Winderradeen. By obtaining the best possible price for the property, they could maximise the benefits accruing to Mary's three surviving children—Leila, Evelyn and James.

Murray had married again in 1860, fathering two more children (see below). He was never a conspicuously prudent caretaker of his personal finances, and he continued to live beyond his means after his remarriage. His financial position worsened during the mid-1860s when disease devastated his sheep flocks, and he was forced to auction the contents of Winderradeen's library to pay off debts. At one point, Murray's creditors had bailiffs dispatched to Winderradeen to seize valuable items from the homestead. In fact, Murray was only saved from bankruptcy (and automatic removal from his seat in parliament) by the generosity of a few of his colleagues, who loaned him money. He would remain, however, in a tight fiscal position for the rest of his life, even though the trustees of Winderradeen finally consented to the sale of the property at the end of the 1860s, when an acceptable offer was made for it.

Knighthood, final illness & death[edit]

Murray's financial travails did not hamper the effectiveness with which he discharged his public duties, and he had a knighthood conferred upon him by Queen Victoria in 1869 for his services to the parliament and the people of NSW. For a comprehensive account and assessment of Murray's administrative achievements, parliamentary activities and political attitudes, the best source remains Gwendoline Wilson's detailed 1968 biography, Murray of Yarralumla, published by Oxford University Press (Melbourne, London, Wellington and New York).

Sadly, however, his final years were clouded by too much heavy drinking. His health declined due to cancer and he was forced to take leave from parliament. In 1873, he died at a rented property, Richmond House, in the inner-Sydney suburb of Darlinghurst. He had endured his painful final illness with an exceptional degree of dignity and courage. Although baptised a Catholic, a faith that he never renounced, Murray had agreed shortly before his death to be interred in an Anglican churchyard when offered a burial plot at St Jude's, Randwick—in Sydney's eastern suburbs. Such an unorthodox arrangement was typical of Murray, who had consistently taken a non-sectarian approach to Christian worship.

Children & second marriage[edit]

Murray was survived by three children from his first marriage to Mary Gibbes. They were:

  • Leila Alexandrina Murray (1844–1901), who rejected the institution of marriage (having witnessed her mother's unhappy experiences as a bush bride) and worked instead for a time as a school teacher in Sydney. Later, she became the housekeeper of her uncle Augustus Onslow Manby Gibbes at Yarralumla. After Gibbes sold Yarralumla in 1881, she became his travelling companion on a nine-year-long tour around the UK and northern Europe. She spent the final few years of her life living on a small rural property near Goulburn, NSW.
  • Evelyn Mary Fanny Matilda Murray (1849–1928), who, like her sister and her father, was an expert rider. She married a sheep grazier, Robert Morrison, from Wellington, NSW, in 1874. She moved to England following her husband's death, and her daughter attended Cambridge University. Evelyn became a suffragette in the early 1900s. She died in London.
  • James Aubrey Gibbes Murray (1857–1933), who, being a skilful draftsman, joined the NSW Department of Lands. His half-brother Gilbert described him as gentle and retiring, and something of a social hermit. In 1882, he married Marion Edith Lewis in Sydney and subsequently had a number of children with her. One of his sons became the Chief Medical Officer of Western Australia. Another was killed on the Western Front in 1917.

In addition, Murray's first marriage produced three daughters who died in infancy. Christened Ayleen, Constance and Geraldine, they were all buried at Yarralumla.

As we have seen, Murray's first wife, Mary, had died in 1858, succumbing after the birth of her last child to heart failure and a severe infection. Two years after this tragedy, on 4 August 1860, Murray married his children's English nanny/governess, Agnes Ann Edwards (1835–1891), at Winderradeen homestead. He would have a further two children with Agnes, who, incidentally, was a cousin of W. S. Gilbert of the celebrated Gilbert and Sullivan musical partnership. These children would both earn a degree of world fame when they grew up. They were:

Following the loss of her husband in 1873, Lady Murray made ends meet by conducting a girls' school at Sydney's Potts Point. (Her stepdaughter, Leila Alexandrina Murray, was a member of the school's staff for a time.) Lady Murray's school did not thrive financially in the long run, however. She returned home to England, dying there in 1891.[1]


  1. ^ a b Wilson, Gwendoline (1967). "Murray, Sir Terence Aubrey (1810 - 1873)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 28 January 2010.
  2. ^ Fitzgerald, A. 1977. Historic Canberra 1825-1945, a pictorial record. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra ISBN 0-642-02688-2
  3. ^ "Sir Terence Aubrey Murray (1810 - 1873)". Members of Parliament. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 28 January 2010.

Further reading[edit]

For more information about the history of the Yarralumla estate during Murray's tenure, see:

Parliament of New South Wales
New district Member for Southern Boroughs
1856 – 1859
District abolished
Preceded by
Daniel Deniehy
Member for Argyle
1859 – 1862
Succeeded by
Samuel Emmanuel
Preceded by
Sir Daniel Cooper
Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly
1860 – 1862
Succeeded by
John Hay
Political offices
Preceded by
George Nichols
Auditor-General of New South Wales
Succeeded by
William Mayne