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Significant Scots
William Hutchison Murray OBE

Murray was born in Liverpool, the son of William Hutchison Murray (1878-1915), of Cairndhu, Queens Drive, Mossley Hill, H.M. Inspector of Mines for Liverpool and North Wales, who was killed at Gallipoli whilst serving as a sapper with the Royal Marines, and his wife Helen (née Robertson). He was subsequently raised at Huntly Terrace, North Kelvinside, Glasgow. His paternal grandparents, William Hutchison Murray (b. 1850; a wool manufacturer who, on losing all the money he had invested in the 1878 collapse of the City of Glasgow Bank, became a respected music teacher at Anderson College, Glasgow, later becoming Music Inspector for the Glasgow Board of Education, and conductor of the Glasgow Choral Society) and Margaret Hesketh (née Jenkins), lived at Giffnock, East Renfrewshire.

Murray did much of his most influential climbing in the period just before World War II. He climbed on many occasions with the slightly older J. H. B. Bell.

At the outbreak of World War II, he joined the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and was posted to the Middle East and North Africa. He was captured south of Mersa Matruh during the Western Desert Campaign in a retreat to El Alamein in June 1942 by a tank commander from the 15th Panzer Division who was armed with a machine-pistol. A passage in Mountain magazine (#67, 1979) describes the moments after his capture:

To my astonishment, he [the German tank commander] forced a wry smile and asked in English, 'Aren't you feeling the cold?' ... I replied 'cold as a mountain top'. He looked at me, and his eyes brightened. 'Do you mean – you climb mountains?' He was a mountaineer. We both relaxed. He stuffed his gun away. After a few quick words – the Alps, Scotland, rock and ice – he could not do enough for me.

He then spent three years in Prisoner of War camps in Italy (Chieti), Germany (Moosberg, Brunswick) and Czechoslovakia (Marisch Trubeau Oflag VIII-F). While imprisoned, Murray wrote a book entitled Mountaineering in Scotland. The first draft of the work was written on the only paper available to him – rough toilet paper. The manuscript was found and destroyed by the Gestapo. To the incredulity of his fellow prisoners, Murray's response to the loss was to start again, despite the risk of its loss and that his physical condition was so poor from the near starvation diet that he believed he would never climb again. The rewritten work was finally published in 1947 and was followed by the sequel, Undiscovered Scotland, in 1951. Both concentrate on Scottish winter climbing and were widely credited with helping to inspire the post-war renaissance in the sport.

Murray was deputy leader to Eric Shipton on the 1951 Everest Reconnaissance Expedition, but failed to acclimatise at altitude and so was not included in the 1953 team. He also explored part of the Api group in Nepal with John Tyson in 1953. He was an active campaigner to protect wilderness areas of Scotland from ill-considered development. In 1961, a major success was the defeat of plans to build a hydroelectric scheme in Glen Nevis.

He won many awards, including the Literary Award of the U.S.A Education Board, an honorary doctorate from Stirling University and the Mungo Park Medal for Himalayan exploration. He settled with his wife, Anne B. Murray (née Clark), in Argyll. He was appointed O.B.E. in 1966.

His autobiography, The Evidence of Things Not Seen, was completed on his death by his wife Anne, who also contributed some of her poetry. The title was that of one of final chapters of Mountaineering in Scotland where Murray quoted a passage from the KJV translation of the New Testament which states that "faith is the evidence of things not seen" (Epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 11, verse 1). It won the Grand Prize of the Banff Mountain Book Festival (2002).


1966 - O.B.E.
1970 - Honorary Doctorate, Stirling University, Scotland
1991 - Doctor of Letters (DLitt), University of Strathclyde, Scotland: - William H Murray, Mountaineer and Author July 1991

Scottish decorations
Royal Scottish Geographical Society: - Mungo Park Medal, 1952

See his list of book at:

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