Private Robert Murray
- 1st & 4th Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry
- Died 22 November 1917, Age 24
JANE WEIR GIBSON
IN LOVING MEMORY OF
WHO DIED AT CONNEL BRIDGE
7TH DEC 1918 AGED 55 YEARS
AND HER SON ROBERT
WHO FELL IN ACTION IN PALESTINE
22ND NOV 1917 AGED 24 YEARS
BELOVED HUSBAND OF
MARGARET KYLE PEDEN
ALSO SEVEN CHILDREN
WHO DIED IN INFANCY
ALSO HER SON JAMES
DIED 28TH SEPT 1926 AGED 20 YEARS
ALSO THE ABOVE
JANE WEIR GIBSON
DIED 6TH MAY 1928 AGED 59 YEARS
I. William Murray (b. 1865 d. 1918) & Jane Gibson (b. 1869 d. 1928)
William Murray was born on the 11th December 1865 at the Village of Park, Closeburn, Dumfriesshire to Jane Murray, the daughter of wood forester William Murray. As a young man he moved to New Cumnock and found work as a grocer’s assistant to Hugh Ross in the miners’ rows at Craigbank. Ross tenanted a public house, shop and house in the Front Row at its junction with Plantation Row. [ see Archibald Ross]
On the 20th June 1889 William married 20-year-old Jane Weir Gibson the daughter of Hugh Gibson, farmer at West Park (also known as Laigh Park) and Agnes Craig. The couple first settled at Knockshinnoch Cottages and it was here that their first child, a daughter, was born but died unnamed, a day after. A son William only survived for 8 months before another son Hugh Gibson Murray was born in October 1891.
The family then moved to Craigbank where William continued to work as a grocer’s assistant. Here Robert Murray was born on the 11th February 1893 and his sister Agnes Craig Murray the following year.
In 1895 William Murray, now 30 years old, and his family took tenancy of a house, shop and store at Bank Glen, advancing from a grocer’s assistant to grocer. Sadly, over the next four years, William and his wife Jane lost four more children who died in infancy – William, Margaret, Jane and David. Over the next six years, 1900-1906, four more children were born and all survived – Andrew, Mary, Craig and James.
The family’s neighbours at Bank Glen included Jane’s father Hugh Gibson, now retired from farming and her brother William Gibson, who worked as a vanman at William’s shop and store.
By 1907, William Murray was both proprietor and tenant of a house, shop and stable at Connelbridge. Late in the year, daughter Marion was born but the following year she became the seventh and last Murray child that sadly died in infancy.
In the 1911 census the eldest sons Hugh, 19 and Robert, 18 are recorded as grocer’s assistants and no doubt daughter Agnes, 16 assisted. Three other children Andrew, Mary and Craig were all still school age and would travel up the brae to the Bank School; whilst youngest child James would join them next year. Also living at Connelbridge was Jane’s widowed brother William Craig Gibson, finding work as a pit labourer underground, along with his four children.
II. Robert Murray (b. 1893 d.1917) and Margaret Kyle Peden (b.1891- )
On the 12th March 1913 Robert, now 20 years old, married 21-year-old Margaret Kyle Peden. She was born at Lugar in the parish of Auchinleck to James Peden, pitheadman and Margaret Kyle. The Peden family moved to Pathhead, New Cumnock where James worked at the pit head before finding work as a checkweighman. Sadly his wife Margaret died the year before her daughter married Robert.
Robert and Margaret settled at Pathhead, adjacent to the Cross Keys Inn and he continued to work as a van man for his father’s grocery at Connelbridge. On 15th May 1915 their daughter Margaret Kyle Murray was born at Pathhead.
By this time war had broken out and in June 1916 Robert Murray answered the call for drivers to enlist in the Army Service Corps Mechanical Transport Companies. On the 3rd May of the following year he boarded the Clyde built troop ship S.S. Transylvania at Marseille as it set off for Alexandria escorted by two Japanese destroyers Matsu and Sakaki, to deliver much needed reinforcements to the Allied forces in their push for Palestine. The following day disaster struck when the ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat U-63 near Savona in the Gulf of Genoa. A second torpedo finished off the Transylvania with the loss of 10 crew, 29 army officers and 373 soldiers. Following the funerals in Savona of a number of the recovered bodies the surviving complement of troops, including Robert Murray, regrouped and their eagerness to continue with the war effort was greatly admired by the locals.
The allies Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) had suffered some setbacks in their campaign in the Sinai and Palestine campaign against the forces of the Ottoman Empire. Twice the Turks had repelled the EEF from taking Gaza in South Palestine. A change in leadership and the arrival of the reinforcements turned the tide in favour of the EEF. Private Robert Murray had now joined 1/4th Battalion Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry which formed part of the 234th Brigade of Infantry assigned to the 75th Division and included British, Indian and South African troops.
‘By October 1917, the British outnumbered the Turks by two-to-one in infantry and eight-to-one in cavalry in one of the few theatres of war where mounted troops could still be used effectively.’
Beersheba fell, forcing the Turks to retreat and the Third Battle of Gaza (1st / 2nd November) began with the town taken on the 7th November. The Ottomans were then defeated at the Battle of Mughar Ridge on 13th November and Jaffa was taken three days later. The fight for Jerusalem gathered pace and began with the Battle of Nebi Samill which lasted from 17th-24th November. The village also known as the ‘Tomb of Samuel’, the Old Testament prophet, sat just to the north of the city and was eventually captured by the 234th Brigade on the 21st November.
‘However, the Brigade still had to contend with counter-attacks from the Ottomans and unsupported with heavy weapons the British infantry could not break through the main Ottoman defensive line and the attack failed to reach its objective Jerusalem.’
It was during one such counter-attack that Private Robert Murray lost his life. George Sanderson writing in ‘New Cumnock Far and Away’, relates the circumstances “Robert was killed as an army transport was caught out in the open by heavy machine gun fire”.
On 11th December 1917 Jerusalem fell and on 4th January 1918 the Cumnock Chronicle , confirmed the news of the death of Robert Murray –
“About a month ago word came that Pte. Robert Murray, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, had been among those who fell in the big Palenstine advance. But there was a doubt, for he was also reported wounded on the same date. Now the worst news has been confirmed. Private Murray was the second son of Mr. William Murray, provision merchant, Connel Bridge and was associated, with his father in the business. He joined the Motor Transports section of the A.S.C. 18 months ago, and went to the East on the torpedoed Transylvania on her last voyage. He was rescued at the time. He was afterwards transferred to the infantry and marched through Palestine with his battalion. There, on 24th November, the gallant soldier fell. Few were better known in the district, Hs cheery and genial manner and his obliging disposition won him hosts of friends wherever he went and his business aptitude and sterling character gained for him universal respect. Private Murray was 24 years of age and leaves a widow and one child.”
The Chronicle were slighly out with the date of Robert’s death as his army record reports that he was killed in action on the 22nd November 1917, the date inscribed on his headstone where he lies in the Jerusalem War Cemetery and on the family headstone in the Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock.
- Jerusalem War Cemetery
- Courtesy of Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Jerusalem War Cemetery is 4.5 kilometres north of the walled city and is situated on the neck of land at the north end of the Mount of Olives, to the west of Mount Scopus. The cemetery is found on Churchill Blvd., next to the Hadassah Hospital.
At the time of his death the value of Robert Murray’s estate was £123. 15s which included £2. 10s of Army pay [Scotland’s People].
Robert’s wife Margaret received a weekly WW1 pension of 26s 8d per week [Ancestry 1] and a War Gratuity payment of £8 8s 8d which included £5 12s 6d for ‘the benefit of the child Margaret’ [Ancestry 2].
Robert Murray’s name appears on the village War Memorial in the Afton Cemetery, on the Bank School Memorial and the New Cumnock Parish Church memorial plaque.
Robert Murray’s father William Murray aged 52, passed away at his home at Connelbridge in December 1918, a month after Armistice Day and a year after the loss of his son. His Will and Testament [Scotland’s Places] makes interesting reading with two and half pages of lists of debtors, local customers The debtors were divided into two categories and a selection of names are given below to illustrate the people and places in the parish of New Cumnock at the time
(1) Book debts considered good and valued at 20 shillings in the £1
|S. Smith||Lanemark Row||2||12||6|
|J. Brown||156 Burnfoot Row||2||8||9|
(2) Book debts considered doubtful and valued at 5 shillings in the £1
|Hugh Armstrong||Stepends Row||9||16||11|
|Mrs Clark||Connel Burn||2||2||2|
|Tom MacNeish||Bank Glen||11||8||6|
|William Park||Bank Brae||1||16||4|
|Colin McLatchie||Crescent, Craigbank||1||14||11|
|Robert Paterson||Store Row||3||6||8|
|George Brown||South Boig Street||6||7||6|
|Neil McCulloch||South Western Road||3||7||5|
|Andrew Whiteford||Blair Street, Craigbank||4||9||9|
Robert’s mother Jane Weir Gibson passed away in hospital at Ayr on 6 May 1928, aged 52 years and lies with her husband in the family lair in the Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock
In April 1920 Robert’s widow Margaret Kyle Peden, now living at the Castle with their daughter Margaret, married George Duthie Morrison, a journeyman shoemaker and together they set up home at Pathhead, later as tenants at Dunrod house. George was the son of the late Forbes Morrison, druggist who had arrived in New Cumnock from Aberdeenshire and his brother Andrew had been killed in France while serving with the Black Watch. Margaret passed away in January 1968, aged 76 years the year after her husband George had died.
- George Sanderson “New Cumnock Far and Away”
- Cumnock Chronicle (January 4, 1918)
National Library of Scotland
- All maps reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
- Old Parish Records, Births, Marriages, Deaths, Census Records, Valuations Rolls, Wills & Testaments
- Ancestry 1: UK, WWI pension ledgers and index cards for Robert Murray.
- Ancestry 2: UK, Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects, 1901-1929 for Robert Murray
Commonwealth War Graves Commission