A STORY of the resilience and courage of Scottish migrant Isabella Murray has been told by her great-great-great grandson and Tuncurry resident Ross Murray, in his book ‘Of Greater Worth than Gold, the History and Legacy of Isabella Murray’.
The book, which reveals the captivating story of the early Murray family, was launched at Saturday’s annual Murray Clan gathering at the Wingham Bowling Club by Jan Weeks of Tinonee, a long-time family friend who has been a committee member of the Murray Clan of NSW since its inception.
Isabella Murray was a strong woman, mother and pioneer. She arrived in Australia on the sailing ship, the Earl Grey, in 1851 as a widow with five children. Five older children had arrived earlier in 1848 on the Castle Eden. The ten children, nine boys and one girl, mostly settled in the Manning and Wallamba River catchment areas.
The Castle Eden voyage was marred by a severe storm and that of the Earl Grey by a scarlet fever outbreak, but the large family survived the ordeals to start a new life in the great southern land.
With such a large family, Ross said it is almost impossible to complete a comprehensive family tree of the Murray family. Instead, he has set out to create a starting point for others to find their own story.
As an ex history teacher and previously published non-fiction author, the telling of his early family history was something Ross found fascinating and important.
As part of the process he undertook research for his book while travelling in Scotland in 2005. He visited the areas where his ancestors lived and farmed and took photographs of significant sites.
“I was very interested in the Scotland countryside from a history point of view.” Ross said.
He even came across a 400 year-old oak tree which would have formed part of the landscape when the original Murrays worked the land.
The book’s title was born from an extract from a letter written to Isabella in 1852 by a family friend who was a well-to-do member of the English gentry.
“Dwell in the love of God, seeing how he loves you. This is far greater riches than all the gold in the world.”
The letter was found in the back of a cupboard on the Camphouse property at Killawarra by Alex Murray. It was a fitting starting point for the story as the early Murray pioneers were committed Christians and played an important role in establishing Presbyterian Churches on the Manning. The family made significant contributions to their new homeland. They loved music and brought traditional Scottish music with them.
The Tuncurry local has broken his research into nine chapters which provide background on why the Murrays came to Australia, their contribution to their new home and the legacy Isabella left the family which is now scattered throughout Australia and overseas. The story goes back as far as 1669 to the earliest documented Scottish ancestor, John Murray I.
Not only will the book appeal to the Murray Clan and people of Scottish heritage but also to those interested in the early history of the Manning Valley.
“Isabella’s story is truly amazing,” Ross said.
The book is available at the Manning Valley Historical Society and Something Special Book Store in Tuncurry.