A significant part of the program at the 2012 Annual Dinner was the launch of Ross Murray's book Of Greater Worth than Gold: The History and Legacy of Isabella Murray. His longstanding family friend, Jan Weekes (Murray) did him the honour of launching the book. Jan has been a member of the Murray Clan Committee since its inception and did a great job. The launch was very successful, despite the fact that unexpected delays in production meant that we had only one proof copy for members to inspect! However, many people placed orders on the night.
The Subject of the Book:
Like thousands of other Scots, John and Isabella Murray were victims of the vast industrial and agricultural changes that transformed British society during the Economic Revolution. As tenant farmers, they lost their small holding as farms on the large estates were amalgamated and as sheep production replaced the more traditional intensive cropping. When John died in 1845, Isabella was left with ten children in a situation of great uncertainty.
This book traces the story of the families of John and Isabella, as far as available records allow, for the two centuries prior to these events. It considers the issues involved in the decision of Isabella and the children to migrate to Australia, describes the voyages themselves in 1848 and 1851, and records the settlement of the family in the fertile and picturesque Manning Valley on the Mid North Coast of NSW, whose rolling hills and rich farmlands are reminiscent of the Borders valleys of the Rulewater and Jedwater that the family had known so well.
The book also examines something of the character of these early generations of Murrays, in particular the profound Christian convictions which motivated their thoughts and actions and which have left a long-lasting legacy of Christian commitment and service in many branches of the family. It is the story of the pioneering origins of a prolific family that has made a significant contribution to the Manning District and indeed to the nation.
Jan’s launch speech is reproduced below.
I am very appreciative of those kind people who have commented on the book, both by phone and email, and sometimes at great length. For example, Julie Evans wrote:
I have completed my first reading of your book and know that I will return to it many times ... You have created a scholarly history, thoroughly researched and documented and have brought to life our Murray ancestors. I am thrilled to have played even a very minor role in the book’s creation. The ‘reality’ of Isabella is very strong – I feel I have come to ‘know’ her over so many years of family history research and your book has added another dimension to that knowledge. Providing the history of the times in which they lived, both in Scotland and on the Manning, has meant that we can better understand the context of their lives. How much we are shaped by the events occurring around us. Thank you for the opportunity to read your work… Thanks again for sharing your writer’s journey with me. You can be justly proud of the end product…
Margaret Tuiqereqere wrote:
I love what I've glanced at so far, just can't believe we descendants should have such a treasure of Isabella's life in our possession. How can we Murrays thank you for your time, effort and devotion in writing it Ross…
Jim Kable wrote:
I have just now finished reading through your first-rate family/cultural history “Of Greater Worth than Gold”. How glad I am to have it on my family history bookshelf … absolutely bravo on the chapter acknowledging the Indigenous Birpai/Biripi people of the Manning River Valley! A totally uplifting story … Meticulously told! Congratulations! Your detail on the emigration process … was fascinating - intention, selection (and rejection - and why) and then the actual process - shipping/ship-board life - and arrival - brilliantly comes to life …- your book is terrific. Many thanks for your scholarship!
We are dependent to a large extent on “word of mouth” to publicise this book. I would be grateful if members would pass on the information about the book to other family members who might be interested.
The book costs $25 ($30 posted). It contains coloured illustrations and has been produced using quality paper and binding.
There are three ways you can obtain a copy:
1. Buy one from the Wingham Museum.
2. Send a cheque with your address details to Ross Murray, 10 Banksia Parade, Tuncurry NSW 2428 and I will post it to you. (Postage $3.50 extra.)
3. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange payment by direct transfer.
Speech Delivered by Jan Weekes in Launching Of Greater Worth than Gold: The History and Legacy of Isabella Murray
When Ross sent me an email asking if I would say a few words at his book launch I was very cautious about accepting his offer. There are many others who deserve this honour. I hope that I can do justice to this task. When I began High School, I remember one of my first Social Studies tasks was to write out my family tree. This proved to be a difficult task. Dad actually visited two of his elderly aunts in Taree and found that they had a family tree and he copied out a little section for me. That was when my appetite for knowledge of my family history began but I didn’t ever seem to have the time to pursue that interest myself.
In 1979, our family went to the big Murray gathering at Wingham Brush. When the time came for the election of committee members, I remember Dad saying: “These people are going to write a book and do a family tree. I’ll nominate you so that you can get a copy when it is written”. I was elected and so I became a committee member of the Clan Murray of NSW. At this time, although we lived at the Bucketts Way end of Bootawah Road, our family had no idea that Camp House was at the other end of Bootawah Road at Alex and Heather’s place. At the committee meetings I met Fred and his cousin Joan Murray and later Ross (although I remembered him from Taree High School days). Fred and Joan did write that book with the family trees, Darryl Murray followed that with his book of my Hugh line and now Ross has completed his book. What a wonderful legacy we Murrays now have!
I remember how excited everyone was at the Committee Meeting when Isabella’s letter from Joseph Chatto Lamb was presented by Alex and Ross began his research. The Wingham Chronicle this week included an article about Ross’ book stating that the book’s title was born from an extract from that 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, to come to understand and believe what Jesus did when he died for you.” Hence the book’s title… “Of Greater Worth than Gold”
The letter became important for so many of us as we wondered about Isabella, why she would come to Australia with her children and her Christian background. Ross has pursued this and it has become a significant part of his book. I can’t imagine how many hours have been spent researching and writing and how many kilometres have been travelled before Ross was able to present us with his treasure tonight. The story goes back as far as 1669 to the earliest documented Scottish ancestor, John Murray I and, using historic references, follows our line through to John and Isabella.
In his Introduction, Ross writes that John and Isabella Murray were victims of the vast industrial and agricultural changes that transformed British society during the Economic Revolution. As tenant farmers, they lost their small holding, as farms on the large estates were amalgamated and as sheep production replaced the more traditional intensive cropping.
John and Isabella’s story in itself is an interesting one. They are not just names in a genealogy. They were real people who had to make hard decisions in the light of the social upheavals that were going on around them. When John died in 1845, Isabella was left with ten children in a situation of great uncertainty. Isabella was a strong woman, mother and pioneer. Ross’s book traces the story of the families of John and Isabella, as far as available records allow, for the two centuries prior to these events. In 1848, five of John and Isabella’s children, Hugh (together with his wife Margaret), James, William, Thomas and Agnes, migrated to Australia on the sailing ship, the Castle Eden. They were followed by Isabella and the rest of the children, John, Robert, George, Veitch and Walter, in 1851, on the Earl Grey. It considers the issues involved in the decision of Isabella and the children to migrate to Australia. You could ask yourself how you would react to the setback the family must have experienced when half the close-knit family was approved for assisted emigration in 1848 and the other half was rejected. The book describes the voyages themselves in 1848 and 1851 where both branches of the family faced difficulties. What would Isabella have been thinking when, with her young boys to protect, scarlet fever was raging through the Earl Grey on the high seas? Imagine Hugh’s wife, a pregnant Margaret Murray aged 22, enduring a 116 day voyage, and a storm at sea of sufficient strength to smash all three of the ship’s masts.
Ross writes that his book also examines something of the character of these early generations of Murrays, in particular the profound Christian convictions which motivated their thoughts and actions and which have left a long-lasting legacy of Christian commitment and service in many branches of the family.
A big percentage of the Scots who came to Australia were Christians, and this is partly because of the huge role the churches played in supporting emigration schemes. This firm Christian faith held their lives together for generations. It was a very Scottish faith that had its roots in the Scottish Reformation.
Ross also records the settlement of the pioneering Murray family in the Manning Valley on the Mid North Coast of NSW, where our rolling green hills and rich farmlands would, no doubt, have reminded the family of the Borders valleys of the Rulewater and Jedwater that they had known so well.The Murray families have made a significant contribution to the Manning District and indeed to the nation. Members of this family put their skills to work in Australia showing their enterprise and adaptability, but although they prospered on their farms they also put back into their communities through their church activities and community involvement. Perhaps our Murray families today have preserved and honoured the memory of their Australian founding family more than many other families. We have certainly attempted to do this through the Murray Clan Society with its annual get-togethers.
Ross has acknowledged many who have assisted him and we are indebted to them too for researching our heritage. He also states that our Yellow Murray Book written by his father, Fred, and Joan Murray, (The History of the Australian Murrays) gave him valuable starting points. Likewise, he sees his book as being useful when branches of the family want to write their own histories. By assembling the information available about the original Manning Murrays and their forebears, particularly over the period leading up totheir settlement in Australia, writers now do not have to reinvent the wheel by researching that part of our history that is common to all branches. They now have a place to start.
Ross wrote to me stating: “I wanted it to be a book of use to historians so there is a lot of general history in the book, but I also wantedto avoid unnecessarily academic language that would discourage a general reader. I would like to think that my love of family, and my studies in history and theology, have combined to produce a book that will help the family and local historians to appreciate the place of the Murrays in the history of the valley, and indeed beyond it.”
With photos, and Ross’s writing style, I am sure that you will enjoy reading this 94 page book. • If you would like to know about the life of our ancestors in Scotland in the 1800s and our Murray ancestors in the Manning Valley, you will want to read this book. • If you want to learn about the beginnings of the Murray Clan Society of NSW you will want to read this book. • If you always wonder what to buy your parents, children and grandchildren for birthdays or Christmas…then this is the book for you. Ross has printed 800 copies only and they are indeed a quality production. Thank you, Ross and Philippa for giving us your time for several years and for producing this treasured “little book” as you have affectionately called it, Ross. Congratulations on this historical and literary achievement. I hope everyone enjoys reading it. This book and you, Ross Murray, are of Greater Worth Than Gold.