Showing posts with label Scots Kirk Hamilton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scots Kirk Hamilton. Show all posts

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Which David Murray was he?

The repetition of given names, especially naming first born sons after their father or grandfather, is a tradition with centuries of history behind it. I find it extremely  confusing, especially when trying to understand how the many different Murrays that scatter Hamilton’s history are connected.

Murray Street, Hamilton runs parallel to Beaumont Street to its east, neatly truncated at its northern end by Lindsay Street and south at Denison Street. The Scots Kirk, dedicated in 1887 and considered one of the finest pieces of church architecture in the Northern District, occupies the corner of Tudor and Murray Streets. Inside the Kirk are three stained glass windows – each a memorial to a man with the name David Murray. Were there three?

When Jeanette Muxlow contacted me after publication of my book, ‘Hidden Hamilton’ with an offer to share her family story, I resolved to get my head around this conumdrum. I also had help from local historian Peter Murray [1] who like Jeanette, is a member of the Murray clan.

DAVID MURRAY (1834-1908)

David Murray (1834 – 1908) is Jeanette Muxlow’s great grandfather. I call him the first David Murray. He was important to Hamilton because he was one of Hamilton’s first Aldermen.

Gregson Park Memorial Gates at the Tudor Street entrance, 2014
David Murray’s name is among the six Aldermen of the inaugural
Hamilton Municipal Council inscribed on the gates

David Murray was elected Mayor of Hamilton on a number of occasions, serving the Council for over 20 years. 

Portrait of David Murray, Mayor of Hamilton Municipal Council, 1876-1880
This portrait is a digitised copy of an original oil painting
Photograph courtesy Newcastle Region Library

David Murray was born in Cumnock, Scotland. He went to work in the coal mines, but emigration and a better life were clearly on this young man’s mind. After a short time in America around 1852, he returned home, only to set sail on the ‘City of Sydney’ for Melbourne, Australia in search of gold. It is known that David and his brother Patrick (Peter) spent some time in the Araluen/Captain’s Flat area of southern NSW. Then, David returned to his coal mining roots, finally settling in ‘Old Borehole’, as Hamilton was then known, and finding work in the AA Company’s D Pit.

Like many industrious workers of his time, David Murray bought a block of land in 1852 and built a cottage at 70 James Street. In 1853 he married Ellen Miller, with whom he had 11 children – 4 of whom died.

David and Ellen Murray, with two of their children
Photograph courtesy Newcastle Region Library

When Hamilton Council was instituted in 1872, David Murray’s house at 70 James Street became the temporary venue for early Council meetings. A room was rented to Council for three shillings per week. Read about The Making of Hamilton here.

The first Hamilton Municipal Council Chambers 70 James Street, Hamilton, 
home of David Murray
Photograph courtesy Newcastle Region Library

Tragically, Ellen Murray was killed in 1877 at the age of 41, when visiting the property of her brother George Miller (thought to be near Teralba). As land was being cleared, a burning tree fell on Ellen. Over thirty years later, she was to be memorialised in a stained glass window in the Scots Kirk, with her husband David.

Two of ten wall-height stained glass memorial windows in Scots Kirk, Hamilton [2]
On the right is the memorial window for David and Ellen Murray,
showing King Solomon at worship

Despite his terrible loss, life had to go on for David and his seven children. At some point, he must have left his work in D Pit. Jeanette Muxlow says that David was involved in many business ventures. With George Donald, also a pioneer of Presbyterianism, David Murray was one of the first communicants of Scots Kirk (then called Hamilton Presbyterian Church). 

A quick diversion. George Donald [3] was Hamilton’s first Mayor, serving three terms, and Donald Street in Hamilton is named for him. He played a major role in establishing the Scots Kirk building where it is today, and a large plaque on the southern wall honours his work. Read about George Donald here.

David’s brother Patrick (Peter) built a larger home for his brother next door to his first house, at 72 James Street.

72 James Street, the second home of David Murray, still stands today (2015)
Originally named ‘Cumnock’ after his birthplace in Scotland,
no evidence of the nameplate remains

In 1881, David Murray married a widow, Mrs Flora Ann Spicer, whom he had known from the Hamilton Presbyterian Church. Flora already had two sons, and together, she and David had three more children.

David Murray must have had exceptional physical energy and endurance. Jeanette writes:

‘In 1883, in partnership with his brother Patrick (Peter), he bought land at Morisset Point on Lake Macquarie (this is the spot where Murrays Beach Residential Community is today, south of Swansea). If you go for a walk to the northern end of the picnic area, and go just beyond the fence, there is evidence of old mine workings. There are rail lines and wagon wheels still there. Mum and Aunty Betty used to tell the story of how David would attend church at Hamilton on a Sunday morning and then walk to the mine and spend the week living there, and walk back to Hamilton on a Friday.’

Google Maps tells me that if one were to undertake that 28 kilometre walk on today's roads, it would take almost 6 hours.

There is a second stained glass window in Scots Kirk – this one in memory of David and Flora Murray.

Two of ten wall-height stained glass memorial windows in Scots Kirk, Hamilton
On the left is the memorial window for David and Flora Murray, showing Jesus receiving water at the well from a Samaritan woman

So both of these tall windows are in memory of the same man, honouring his first and second wives.

DAVID MURRAY (1864-1926) [4] ‘David’s Davie’

There is a third memorial window for a David Murray, high above the choir gallery, reached by a narrow wooden staircase. David Murray (1864-1926) is the son of David Murray and his first wife Ellen, and was known as ‘David’s Davie.’ Nicknames were commonly used to distinguish boys who had been given the same first name as their father.

While beginning his working life as a blacksmith down the south coast at Bulli, David Murray quickly made his way up in the world. Returning to Newcastle, he became a ship’s chandler or provisioner. He was in business in a general store with his brother Thomas. Like his father before him, he too became a Council Alderman (1897), and later Mayor – of Carrington, where he lived with his wife Louisa and their four children. David owned properties in Carrington and Lambton, and held company directorships.

This David Murray is one of the men we have to thank, in a way, for the institution of the building society, and our home loan system. He helped found the organisation that came before our building societies of today – ‘The Newcastle and District Starr-Bowkett Society’, and was a director. That company later became ‘The Newcastle Permanent Building Society’. He wrote that as a result of establishing the building societies, many hundreds of people were able to secure homes, and three quarters of a million pounds had been advanced, free of interest. 

David and Louisa Murray, with their two sons
Photograph from the collection of Peter Murray

David Murray stood for the National Party in the 1925 State elections. His manifesto    leaves us in no doubt about his passion for building societies – part of it reads:

‘I have advocated all my life that every working man should OWN HIS OWN HOME, and it was on account of holding such strong views that I did put my whole life and energy, and the best that was in me, to make the Societies the success they are today’. [5]

Sadly, the election campaign worsened his already ill health, and he died the following year, aged 62.

DAVID MURRAY (1862-1929) ‘Peter’s Davie’

I thought I’d finished writing this story, when I discovered yet another David Murray. Patrick (Peter) Murray has cropped up in this post a couple of times, as the brother of the first David Murray. He too had a son called David. To distinguish him from his cousin David Murray (who was known as ‘Davie’s David’), this one was known as ‘Peter’s Davie’.  He is the great grandfather of local historian Peter Murray, my inestimable reference point and guide in Hamilton history. Peter tells me he believes that Murray Street was named for Patrick (Peter) Murray, whose home was where the Commonwealth Bank building stands today in Beaumont Street, Hamilton. 

David Murray (1862-1929) was also a well known Hamilton businessman. Originally a cabinet maker, he owned a number of furniture/furnishing businesses in Hamilton, Newcastle and Wallsend. His businesses included funeral directing, a branch later successfully developed as a full time enterprise by one of his sons, James Murray. It still proudly bears its founder's name, David Murray Funerals - 'a family business since 1884'. David Murray owned and stabled racehorses. Great grandson Peter Murray tells me he loved a flutter. 

David and Jane Murray, with one of their six sons, and employees outside Murray’s Furniture Warehouse, corner of Tudor and Webster Streets, Hamilton
Photograph courtesy Newcastle Region Library

Hamilton’s early history is rich with examples of individuals who have bettered themselves, grown families, established businesses and forged civic institutions. Of course, none is without flaws. Yet, improving their own lot seems to have been inextricably linked to improving their communities. Each fuels the other. Something to ponder, there.

Rose window in Scots Kirk, Hamilton in memory of  David and Louisa Murray
Dedicated 6 January, 1945
Photograph by Matthew Ward

The Scots Kirk is open to the public on Wednesdays 12.00 noon to 2.00 pm.

Unattributed photographs by Ruth Cotton.


Thank you to Jeanette Muxlow for sharing her family history, and to Peter Murray for additional historical and family history information. Thank you to the Scots Kirk Presbyterian Church, Hamilton for information and allowing photographs.

[1] Peter Murray 2006: From Borehole to Hamilton Jubilee 1848-1927, Peter Murray, Newcastle.
[2] The stained glass windows in the Scots Kirk Presbyterian Church, Hamilton, NSW were designed by John Radecki, of the Sydney firm John Ashwin and Co.
[3]George Donald fought successfully to establish Hamilton Presbyterian parish with its own minister, independent of Newcastle. On a trip to England, he lobbied the Directors of the AA Company and secured agreement to exchange the site of the old Presbyterian Church in Denison Street for the current half acre site on the corner of Murray and Tudor Streets. The foundation stone for the new church, modelled on the design of Dunfermline Abbey in Scotland, was laid on 29 January, 1887. George Donald died three weeks later on 18 February 1887, aged 56. Donald Street is named for him. He and his wife Margaret raised 10 children.

[4] Information on David Murray (1864-1926) provided by email from historian Peter Murray.
[5] Election manifesto from the collection of Peter Murray.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

The Story of Donald's Corner

‘When you were growing up in Hamilton’, I asked  memoir writer Margaret Colditz, ‘where was the money?’

‘The money’, she responded without a second’s pause, ‘was in Donald’s Corner’.

George Donald [1] was what we’d call today ‘a mover and a shaker’. In late 19th century Hamilton, he had his finger on the pulse in business, civic administration, school and church. With that remarkable combination of vision, persuasiveness and practical skills, it is likely he also had charisma. He died aged 56 in 1887.

We first met George Donald in the post 'The Making of Hamilton' - he was Hamilton's  first Mayor.

George Donald (1831-1887)
Photograph courtesy of Newcastle Region Library

It was his drive and determination that made the Incorporation of Hamilton a reality. This meant Hamilton could levy rates, using the collected funds to improve the environment and circumstances in which people lived. We know he must have been an important civic leader, because there is a thoroughfare named for him, Donald Street, and an imposing fountain in his honour in Gregson Park.

What else can we glean about the man, his influence and his power in Hamilton’s earliest days?

George Donald was Scottish, like a large proportion of early immigrants to this locality. He arrived here in 1859 at the age of 28 to work in the mines. Seizing an opportunity, he became manager of the Hamilton Cooperative Store, an offshoot of the Borehole Cooperative Society.

Hamilton Branch Cooperative Store
Photograph by Ralph Snowball, courtesy Cultural Collections,
 University of Newcastle, Australia

The Cooperative Store inadvertently provided George Donald with the on-the-job training needed to set up on his own. In 1865, just 6 years after his arrival, Donald established a grocery store on the corner of Beaumont and Tudor Streets. This would have been competition for the Cooperative Store.

Donald did well, later adding an ironmonger and chemist to his  family grocery business.

Donald’s Chemist and Ironmonger
Corner of Beaumont and Tudor Streets, Hamilton
Photograph from the Lynn Family, courtesy Newcastle Region Library

George Donald's land extended across two sites on Tudor Street, between Beaumont and Murray Streets. Over time, as evident in the photograph below, the building on the landmark corner site was extended and remodelled, with other businesses leasing space.

Tram outside Donald's chemist, corner Beaumont and Tudor Streets, Hamilton, 
June 10, 1950
Photograph courtesy of Greg and Sylvia Ray

George Donald and his wife Margaret had seven sons and three daughters. With a growing family, George Donald was active in Hamilton Public School affairs. Clearly not afraid of over commitment, he served for periods of time as Secretary of the School Board, and of the Mechanics Institute.

The Presbyterian connection

A striking example of George Donald’s drive and initiative was the impetus he provided for the formation of the Hamilton Scots Kirk. [3]

While a small wooden structure built in 1859 on the corner of Denison and Milton Streets was thought to be the first purpose built church in Hamilton, the Presbyterians worshipping there experienced scandal and schism. That’s another story. Between 1866 and 1868, the church was left without a Minister.

Many Hamilton Presbyterians still travelled to churches in Newcastle on Sundays. In an interesting gesture, the AA Company provided free horse drawn trolleys as transport for Presbyterians and Methodists. When this free service ceased in 1880, George Donald decided to take action.

No doubt using the lobbying and administrative skills acquired as three times Mayor (1872-76), he successfully pursued Hamilton’s claim as a separate Presbyterian parish. By 1882, the parish had installed its own minister, Reverend William Gray. When the old church in Denison Street proved inadequate, George Donald was instrumental in securing the present block on the corner of Tudor and Murray Street for the new church. On a trip to England he negotiated with the AA Company for an exchange of the former site for the new block of land.

The foundation stone for the new Scots Kirk was laid on 29 January, 1887 just several weeks before his death aged just 56. Although suffering ill health dating from his last term as Mayor, George Donald was able to make a visible and enduring difference to his community. A memorial plaque in his honour is on the southern wall of the Kirk.

The Scots Kirk is modelled on the design of Dunfermline Abbey in Scotland, where George Donald was born. On the outside, it appears a modest traditional church building of its time. Inside, be prepared to be surprised by the drama and beauty of ten stained glass windows around its walls, with Rose, Alpha and Omega windows above the choir gallery . [4]

Collage of stained glass windows in the Scots Kirk, Hamilton
Photograph courtesy of

And then the earthquake...

Although the details are obscure, it appears that after his sudden death, members of the large Donald family continued the businesses George Donald had established. The photograph below, taken sometime before the 1989 earthquake, shows a substantial corner building and diversity of tenants.

Remember, George Donald had started out on this site in 1865.

Donald’s Corner before the 1989 earthquake (n.d.)
Photograph from the collection of Mavis Ebbott

The Newcastle earthquake in 1989 severely damaged the buildings on Donald’s corner  but the Newcastle Council prevaricated on its demolition. Eventually, approval was granted. Before the earthquake, occupants of the original two storey buildings had included Donald’s Chemist, a milk bar, the Etna restaurant, a florist, dress shop, barber and estate agent. [7]

 The Niagara Café connection

We know that by 1989, Bob Donald was operating the original Donald's Chemist. When he began to look for new premises, he found ready vendors close by in the Mitsios brothers, Con and John. They had run the Niagara Cafe on the opposite corner from 1956, for 35 years.

The Niagara Cafe is another Hamilton icon, remembered by many Novocastrians  from as early as the 1920s to the 1980s. It was founded by the Karanges family - Greek immigrants now with five generations spread across Australia.[5] An excellent article about the Karanges family can be read here.

Memoirist Margaret Colditz – and many other Novocastrians – remember the early days of the Niagara Cafe. She writes:

‘Peach melbas and banana splits were sold in summer, hot malted milk in winter. Milkshakes hadn’t yet arrived’.[6]

Milkshakes came eventually, however – who doesn’t remember the anticipation of taking possession of one of those fingertip-chilling aluminium containers?

Above the Niagara Cafe was a ‘gambling den’. One of at least three illegal betting spots on Beaumont Street (another was at the Mook family’s fruit shop and home – read more here) it was largely left alone by police. Interestingly, it was not until off-course betting became legal through TABs that police began to crack down on illegal SP betting.

When he relocated his pharmacy across Tudor Street, Bob Donald kept one of the cafe booths as a tribute to the building’s heritage. The booth was eventually moved because of space demands, but the step remained as part of the front entrance until half was tiled over to make a ramp for accessibility. Craig Jeffriess  shared this local history about the Niagara Café on the Lost Newcastle Facebook site. The step was white marble and had 'Niagara Cafe' inscribed on it.

 A coffee shop has now returned to the corner, a franchise of the popular Gloria Jean’s.

Northeast corner of Beaumont and Tudor Streets, once the site of the Niagara Café and Bob Donald’s All Night Pharmacy (2014)
Photograph by Craig Smith 

Back on the original ‘Donald’s Corner’, there were no takers for this landmark site throughout the 1990s. The site lay vacant for a decade.

A photograph of a wedding at Scots Kirk shows the vacant block in the background
Photograph from the collection of Robyn Jeffriess

It took the initiative of three local businessmen - Steve Foteff, Van Jovanovski and George Yanis - to give this prime space a new life. As he travelled to other cities, George Yanis had noticed how apartments were emerging as an alternative to hotel rooms. He had already built a block in Donald Street. Read George's family story here.

Nearly ten years after the earthquake, Newcastle City Council approved plans for a new apartment building, the first of its kind in the Hunter region. The original plans had been for three storeys but a Council officer pressed for five for the prime corner site. Five storeys were approved.

The Boulevard on Beaumont was built in 2000 across two sites on 1049 square metres of commercial space. It offers 32 suites - studio and two bedroom – each with kitchen, laundry, and sitting area. A four star facility with bar and restaurant, it was refurbished in 2010 and is now a part of the Quality Suites hotel group.

Quality Suites Boulevard on Beaumont
Southeast corner of Beaumont and Tudor Streets, 
known as Donald’s Corner (2014)
Photograph by Matthew Ward

Once again, after devastation and a decade of not knowing its future, Donald’s corner has been restored to its status as a Hamilton landmark.

An elevated perspective of Donald's Corner
Photograph  from the collection of Mavis Ebbott


[1] My acknowledgement for much of the factual information about George Donald to research by local historian Peter Murray. Refer Murray, Peter: From Borehole to Hamilton Jubilee 1848 – 1921. Self published (2006
[2] Colditz, M: My Beloved Beaumont Street. Manuscript (1990)
[3] Murray, Peter: From Borehole to Hamilton Jubilee 1848 – 1921. Self published (2006)
[4] The Scots Kirk is on the corner of Tudor and Murray Street, Hamilton. It is open to the public every Wednesday between 12 noon and 2.00 pm.
[5] Newcastle Museum, Exhibition on Beaumont Street.
[6] Colditz, M: My Beloved Beaumont Street. Manuscript (1990)
[7]  Newcastle Herald Tues April 21, 1998.