was a Kilmarnock native - his father working for Glenfield & Kennedy
- and a former pupil of the Academy. He was academically gifted, being
a favourite student of Lord Kelvin at Glasgow University. He was mathematics
master at Kilmarnock Academy from 1886 until 1896, and then was successively
headmaster of Kilmarnock Grammar School and Loanhead School before succeeding
Hugh Dickie as rector of the Academy. For a number of years Murray was
the president of the Glenfield Ramblers, the local enthusiasts whose
discoveries in the Ayrshire countryside formed a central part of the
recently-founded Dick Institute's geological and natural history collections.
He was thus a key individual for Kilmarnock's participation in the late-Victorian
scientific project. Sadly, shortly after his appointment as Academy
rector, he died on 5 December 1907. A plaque containing his profile
in relief was erected in his memory at the Dick Institute.
The following article appeared in The Goldberry school magazine in June 1908:
The session which is just about to close will always have a melancholy interest for past and present pupils of Kilmarnock Academy, and never will those who were in attendance at school during the closing months of last year drive from their memory the suspense and tension of those dreary November and December days when it was known that the life of our beloved Rector hung in the balance. Though for about a week before the end came we had almost given up hope, it was with a keen pang of inexpressible sorrow that on the morning of Friday, December 6, we read the news that Mr. Murray had passed away.
Those of us who followed his remains to their last resting place on the next Monday, will ever carry in their minds a vivid impression of Kilmarnock 's grief. Here was a whole town in mourning; here was the death of an unobtrusive and retiring scholar felt by all as a personal bereavement. As we left the graveyard on that blustering December afternoon, the clergyman's words still ringing in our ears - "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord," - there mingled with our passionate regret a profound feeling of thankfulness for lives so pure, so noble, so truly great, as David Murray's. Now that several months have gone by, and the present session is at an end, this has been thought a fitting occasion to do honour to our late Rector's memory, albeit the present writer is but too painfully aware how unworthy he is of his task.
The quality in Mr. Murray that naturally appealed most strongly to those who received from him their intellectual guidance was his wide and varied culture. On those occasions when he took our classes, we were as amazed as delighted at the wonderful riches of his mind. He was a true bookman, and culled his knowledge from the literature of many times and lands. "His vast stores of information," writes an old pupil of his, "were always at command, and he brought out of his treasure house things new and old. This of course, was the reward of constant study and hard work. He continued a student to the end."
To hear Mr. Murray quote poetry was a delight. I remember on one occasion he took our Latin class - we were reading De Senectute; the meaning of one passage he splendidly illustrated by quoting in his magnicent voice Browning's lines-
"Grow old along with me The best is yet to be,
The last of life for which the first was made ; Our times are in His hand
Who saith, `A whole I planned.'
Youth shows but half ; trust God ! see all, nor be afraid!"
How truly appropriate this from the lips of David Murray! Recollections like that stick deep in one's memory. But there are greater, nobler things than mere culture, and old pupils of Mr. Murray will lovingly recall the influence for good he exercised on their character. To an old pupil of his whom I have already quoted-the Rev. James Marr, B.D., of Paisley - I am indebted for these remarks:
"Above all he was a perfect gentleman. There lay the secret of his influence. He was dignified without being reserved; courteous, and at the same time kindly in manner. It was the character of the man which told. Nothing impure, or mean, or impertinent could flourish in his presence. And his pupils rewarded him with their enthusiastic love and respect. Now that he has answered to the call of the Great Pilot and gone from our sight, we esteem it one of the greatest blessings of our lives that we knew him and came under his influence in the happy days of youth. There are many men and women scattered over the world who are fighting a better fight and doing nobler work because of what they learned from that ` very perfect gentle knight,' David Murray."
The pitiful tragedy of Mr. Murray's death will never cease to compel our heartfelt regret; that such a brilliant scholar should be snatched away in the very fullness of his powers is one of those inscrutable mysteries which it is our lot to meet here; but it is some consolation to reflect that his memory will ever be green; and that he is enshrined in the hearts of all who came under the influence of his beautiful character.
This picture of David Murray appeared with the
above tribute in The Goldberry June 1908