George John Robert Murray
Sir George John Robert Murray (1863-1942), judge, was born on 27 September 1863 at Murray Park, Magill, Adelaide, second surviving son of Alexander Borthwick Murray, a Scots pastoralist and politician, and his second wife Margaret, née Tinline. He largely took charge of the family's business concerns on his father's death. His family was wealthy by colonial standards and in 1874-75 he attended the High School, Edinburgh, after early tuition at J. L. Young's Adelaide Educational Institution. On his return from Scotland, at the Collegiate School of St Peter he demonstrated outstanding academic attainments and prowess in sport. He matriculated to the University of Adelaide in 1880, winning an entrance scholarship and taking an arts degree in 1883, after annually obtaining first-class honours. That year he was awarded the South Australian scholarship, which enabled him to read law at Trinity College, Cambridge, with financial support from the colonial government.
Returning to Adelaide in 1889, while recovering from an accident which permanently curtailed his sporting activities, he was admitted to legal practice in South Australia at a bedside ceremony conducted by Chief Justice (Sir) Samuel Way.
By 1900 Murray had established a firm position for himself in legal and academic life. He was appointed K.C. in 1906 and in mid-career surprised some contemporaries when he visited England and completed the requirements for the Cambridge master of laws degree in 1909. By then he was also involved deeply in the affairs of the University of Adelaide. He had undertaken a heavy lecturing commitment in the law school during the absence of F. W. Pennefather in 1891. He was elected to the university council that year, beginning a direct, active association which was to continue for fifty years. His correspondence reveals his deep interest in the quality of legal education, the attributes of appointees at professorial level and the nature of the curriculum.
Appointed K.C.M.G. in 1917, Murray on elevation to the chief justiceship also became lieutenant-governor. This proved to be no sinecure: he administered the State on 103 occasions in 1916-42, for a period totalling over six years. As a frequent resident of Government House during vacancies in the office of governor, or absences of a governor, he undertook ceremonial and other vice-regal duties. The university also claimed his continuing attention; six times elected chancellor from 1916 to 1942, he presided regularly over council meetings, concerning himself quite strongly at times in the conduct of the university's affairs. His close knowledge of the university, dating back to his student days, his membership of many of its committees down the years and his standing as one of its most noted graduates, made him a powerful force in regulating its activities.
Murray did not marry and lived at Murray Park with his unmarried sister Margaret; he remained, personally, something of an enigma. He was a trustee of the Adelaide Club. An avid stamp collector from his youth, he had a fine collection of the stamps of the Australian colonies which, with his Australian paintings, he bequeathed to the Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery of South Australia. He endowed the Tinline scholarship in history to commemorate his mother's family from 1907, and he gave generously to the university: £10,000 for a union building in 1936, surrender of a life interest in £53,000 in 1937, and other gifts.
In accord with his wishes, eschewing the pomp and circumstance which he had shunned during his lifetime, on his death on 18 February 1942 Murray was buried privately beside his sister in St George's Church of England cemetery, Magill. The university council minuted that he had been revered 'for the austerity of his life as for his manifest uprightness'. His estate was sworn for probate in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia at £225,700. The residue of above £83,000 was bequeathed to the university. His extensive library was shared between it and the Law Society of South Australia, which named its library in his memory.Biographical SourceAdapted from Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986