Good friend to Australia died penniless

A small patch of grass is the only memorial left for landowner and politician Sir Terence Aubrey Murray who died in 1873 and was buried in St Jude's Church of England, Randwick. Ironically he had been brought up in the Roman Catholic faith in County Limerick, Ireland born as the third and last child of Terence and Ellen Murray.

He had the double distinction of being, at separate times, both the Speaker of the NSW Legislative Assembly and the President of the NSW Legislative Council.


Sir Terence Aubrey Murray. Courtesy NSW Parliament archives

Terence Sr was paymaster for the 48th Regiment and after his wife died, the family ended up in New South Wales in 1827. Terence Sr received a free land grant after his service and the family moved to Erskine Park

Terence Sr received 2500 acres of land north of Lake Bathurst and by 1829 he received an additional grant which he put in the name of Terence Jr, adjoining his land. The land was called Old Collector.

Despite his Catholic upbringing Terence Jr had been schooled by Rev William White in Ireland, an Anglican clergyman. His influences had included lectures from the Irish patriot Daniel O'Connell who preached more on the power of moral persuasion than brute force, to obtain equality.

By 1832 Terence Jr had established another farm called Ajamatong in the south-west corner of the Collector valley. In 1833 he was appointed head of police in the Southern Highlands to help stem the outbreak of bushranging being experienced by farmers. His father died in 1835 and he was granted his land. By 1837 Terence had expanded his land holdings by buying property next to his inherited grant and established his homestead Winderradeen.

When it was complete it comprised 12 rooms, a separate kitchen and numerous outbuildings including convict quarters.

He also invested in a promise of a grant at Yarralumla on the Limestone Plains. This is now the official residence of the Governor-General in Australia in Canberra.

Times were tough during the 1830s with a severe drought across the land, which saw nearby Lake George evaporate, so Terence had to move his stock to fresher pastures in the high plains. It was here he set up his station Cooleman for his starving animals.

He concerned himself with labour shortage concerns, telling an immigration commission that despite employing prisoners and free men he found it hard to engage labour. His suggestion was for labourers to be brought from India.

He married Mary or 'Minnie', daughter of Colonel John Gibbes in 1843 and qualified for election to the Legislative Council. According to an ad in the Sydney Morning Herald, he held no party lines but simply stood for the welfare of the country, liberal and equal laws for all parties and sects and "revival of the elements of prosperity and greatness that were lying dormant in the land."

He was elected unopposed for the combined counties of Murray, King and Georgiana. He encouraged emigration of permanent English settlers with their families and opposed the renewal of transportation to New South Wales, believing the old convict system was no longer viable.

Supporting free trade and the building of local railways, especially one to Goulburn, he spoke against capital punishment saying it did not deter criminals. He was also in favour of a national education system as opposed to a denominational education, despite his Catholic upbringing. He also sat on the select committee that drafted the new constitution, claiming the property qualifications for political representatives was too high and excluded many talented men.

Terence's political career went from strength to strength when in 1856-57 he was appointed minister for Lands and Public Works under Charles Cowper. His enemies conceded that he was an authority on practical rural affairs and a good friend of (Sir) Henry Parkes as they often caught the same train to the city. Sadly, in 1857 after the birth of his first son, after five daughters, his wife died two months later.

In January 1860 John Hubert Plunkett proposed Murray as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, and he was elected. In this same year his sister Anna Maria organised for a governess to come from London to mind his children. Murray soon fell in love with her and they were married at Winderradeen. They had two sons: John Hubert Plunkett Murray who became Sir Hubert Murray, administrator of Papua and George Gilbert Aime Murray, later Professor Gilbert Murray, Oxford.

Financial difficulties soon overtook the Murray family when disease devastated his sheep flocks and when he couldn't pay his creditors in 1865, their homestead Winderradeen was cleaned out of all its furniture. Despite help from friends Terence lost his very fine library of books.

Terence was active as the president of the Society for the Abolition of Capital Punishment and was knighted in February 1869.


Final burial place of Sir Terence Aubrey Murray at St Jude's Church of England, Randwick. Courtesy Gravetas, Findagrave

He died on June 22, 1873 in Darlinghurst after a long and painful illness.

'He served his country regardless of his own interests and died literally penniless', wrote his good friend Stewart Mowle, 'Those who knew him well, loved him with an unbounded love — he was the most faithful and best of friends'.


References

  • Gwendoline Wilson, 'Murray, Sir Terence Aubrey (1810–1873)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/murray-sir-terence-aubrey-2498/text3369, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 5 January 2022.

  • 'Terence Aubrey Murray', Wikipedia, accessed online 9th January, 2022, Terence Aubrey Murray - Wikipedia

  • Plowman, Suzannah, Victoria Design and Management Ltd, 'Winderadeen', Heritage Inventory - Lake George, Molonglo Valley & Burra, Palerang Council, NSW, Volume II, April 2009.

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