National Records of Scotland

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Alexander Murray (1775-1813)

Alexander Murray (1775-1813)


Alexander Murray was self-taught in Latin, Greek, Hebrew and French with the encouragement of local ministers. He worked as a shepherd and a tutor to earn money for books. In 1793 he was admitted to the University of Edinburgh as a 'deserving student'. He was a brilliant scholar who went on to study Asian and African languages and Abyssinian dialects. He contributed to 'The Scots Magazine' and was in contact with Henry Brougham, Francis Jeffery and Thomas Campbell. In 1808 he was appointed Church of Scotland minister at Urr in Kirkcudbrightshire. During his time there he worked on the classics and considered a history of Galloway. In 1812 he returned to Edinburgh as Professor of Oriental Languages. Sadly his career was cut short by consumption a year later. He was buried in Greyfriars Burial Ground. A granite obelisk was erected on the hill overlooking his birthplace. It is known as Murray's Monument and is a tourist attraction which features on the VisitScotland website.

Birth in 1775

Alexander Murray was baptised on 27 October 1775, the son of Robert Murray and Mary Cochran in Donkittrickheid. The entry in the Old Parish Register (OPR) for Minnigaff has been annotated in a different hand 'afterwards Professor of Oriental Languages in the University of Edinburgh and an ornament to Galloway - Mackie'. 

Baptism entry for Alexander Murray

Baptism entry for Alexander Murray (37 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 876/1, page 70

Marriage in 1808

Alexander Murray married Henrietta Affleck while based at Urr. Unfortunately the OPR is defective for this period. The ‘Detailed list of the Old Parochial Registers of Scotland’ (Registrar General, 1872) includes this description for marriages: ‘… excluding seven entries relating to irregular marriages 1770-76 there is no record till July 1814’. You can find further information and a link to this guide on the Coverage of the Old Parish Registers page.

Death in 1813

Reverend Dr Alex[ande]r (indexed as Alexr) Murray, Pro[fessor] of Orientals, was buried on 19 April 1813.  The Old Parish Register for Edinburgh records in the final column that the place of interrment was 'At his own monument'.

Burial entry for Alexander Murray

Burial entry for Alexander Murray (10 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 685-1/99, page 179