The Circumstances and Challenges the Murrays faced with Resolve

The Circumstances and Challenges the Murrays faced with Resolve

The Circumstances and Challenges the Murrays faced with Resolve

An Easter Tale of Faith, Hope, Determination, Courage and Love.



A 1998 file photo of Martin McGuinness, the Sinn Fein Chief Negotiator, left, and Sinn Fein’s president Gerry Adams as they participate in the Bloody Sunday anniversary march (photo from the Column cited below.

This tale was inspired reading expert commentary-March 22nd 2017-Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuiness’ Death and Funeral. Terry Glavin of Southern Irish and British origin is one of Canada’s foremost commentators on matters concerning the current Syrian Civil War.

During the intervening years 1911-1923, a lot had happened for the Murray family to deal with. In 1916 when the Easter Rising against British rule occurred and an attempt to create a Republic was made. An election followed in 1918.

The Sinn Fein-Republicans having affiliate factions in the North of Ireland declared an Irish republic in 1919. The Irish Republic Army (IRA) was formed and the Irish War of Independence was declared. The main targets of the IRA offensives were the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and the British Army in Ireland.

The 1918-1921 War of Independence was raging, mainly a matter of establishing Ireland as a Republic and then the Partitioning of Ireland with an attendant internecine Civil War in Northern Ireland’s six counties followed- 1921-1923.

The battlegrounds and most gruesome conflicts of the War of Independence in the South were in Munster especially Cork. In the North, Belfast was a bloody battleground as well. Over 2,140 people were killed, the majority fell in 1921.

The War of Independence was the more likely time frame when Alexander my father was being sheltered in the field by his mother, the family had lost their family home in Maghera around 1919-1921. The home was located close to the A2, the road to Belfast. Nearby was a British Garrison and Naval approaches in Dundrum Bay were historically evident.

In any event, the home was close to the boundaries between and North and Southern Ireland, the battleground or no man’s land. It is not known whether the home was lost by expropriation, or a consequence of reprisals or the conniptions of conflict.

William Patrick Murray, my father’s elder brother, fell in WW1 between 1916, and the Armistice in 1918. Many Irishmen from the North and South had volunteered to fight in this conflict. The Murrays moved to 33 Tollymore Road the new family home with the help of relatives. Tollymore in the Parish of Maghera was near Castlewellan, both were further from the A2 to Belfast and Dundrum but not by much.

The consequence of events that occurred in the time frame perhaps had the most significance for the Murrays, particularly at the time of the Partition of Ireland 1921-1923 when home rule entered the picture. Northern Ireland had received self government under the Government of Ireland Act. It had essentially been left to its own devices. The first years of the new autonomous region Northern Ireland were marked by bitter violence, particularly in Belfast.

The IRA was determined to oppose the partition of Ireland so the authorities created the (mainly ex-Ulster Volunteer Force) Ulster Special Constabulary to aid the Royal Irish Constabulary. They introduced emergency powers to put down the IRA.

In 1920 The British government started advertising in British cities for men willing to “face a rough and dangerous task,” helping to boost the ranks of the Royal Irish Constabulary to police an increasingly anti-British Ireland. In June 1920 rioting and street fighting had broken out in Derry, a high-ranking constabulary official from the North was assassinated in the South. Anti-Catholic riots took place in several northern towns after the funeral.

By July 1921 Loyalist mobs expelled thousands of Catholic workers who were working in the shipyards and flax mills of Belfast. This was followed by sectarian rioting. Many Catholics were burned out of their homes and were forced to flee to the South. It is known, from my father’s recall that the Murrays “lost” their home and often mentioned the Shipyards of Harland and Woolf where the Titanic was built.

There is no direct correlation between the two as some descendants had intimated. Our Grandfather was said to be associated or worked with the Titanic and crew. When the 1911 Census was taken on the second of April 1911. His occupation was listed as being in the agricultural field.

The Titanic built in Belfast was likely undergoing sea trials at the census time. It sailed to Liverpool to make its first voyage from Southampton on 10th April and sank 15th April 1912 with the loss of 1,500 lives. There isn’t a listing for our grandfather on the Titanic crew or passenger manifests. There was much more taking place at the time…besides;

Of significance was the fact that the Belfast riots involving the Harland and Wolff shipyards occurred some ten years later between 1921-1923. This more likely is the time that the Murrays lost their Maghera home and moved to Tollymore with the help of influential relatives, due to the events that occurred at the time of partition, involving the business interests of those influential relatives as well.

Our Grandmother was a McCauley/Brown from the aristocracy. The McCauley’s were the flax industry magnates of this time and no doubt had to deal with riots and the anti-Catholic pogrom that followed in August 1921 when another assassination of a Royal Irish Constabulary Office happened. My father, Alexander was 14 years old, likely supported at that time with family relatives with a sponsorship to Maynooth.

Other members of the Murray family likely under similar sponsorship, dispersed during the partition. Daniel, Mary K. (Maisie) John at approximate ages of 27, 25, and 22 respectively departed to the United Kingdom-Southern England. Robert at aged 12 also went to Southern England eventually. He took the name Murray-Brown indicating some surrogate relationship with “The Brown” side of the family.

As for the rest of the Murray family, as stated earlier, William Patrick had fallen in WW1, and Rose died previously of Tuberculosis in her late teens or early 20’s. Elizabeth, (Lilly) and Margaret (Madge) were married and living in Belfast when partition sectarian violence followed them.

The Unionists demanded greater security and the British Government authorized a new Force of Police, known as the Ulster Special Constabulary. By November 1921 the British Government had recruited about 9,500 men, many of WW1 service, the Black and Tans, as they became known.

While this was touted for the purposes of a police action, with the irregulars they essentially aligned with the ANTI Treaty forces, the force pitted Irish Republicans against Irish Nationalists with all the subsequent and consequential atrocities and war crimes that followed their interventions.

The bloodiest period occurred in the six months following the signing of the ANGLO-IRISH treaty in December 1921 lasting through June 1922. The Irish Civil War lasted between 28 June 1922 – 24 May 1923) during which partition of six Northern Counties. The Southern Republic “officially” took place with the signing of the Treaty, December 1921.

A particularly gruesome incident occurred 23rd March 1922 after the killing of two special constables in Belfast. It involved mass killings of six Catholic civilians including members of the McMahon family, a family my father recalled.

The violence continued and created a climate of fear in the new region, and there was migration across the new border. Protestants from the Free State into Northern Ireland took place as well, some Catholics fled south, leaving some of those who remained feeling isolated  in the six counties, the Murrays among them for their ancestral legacies, rights, faith and religious convictions.

Despite the mixed religious affiliation of the old Royal Irish Constabulary and the transfer of many Catholic RIC police officers to the newly formed Royal Ulster Constabulary (1922), Northern Catholics did not join the new force in great numbers. Many nationalists came to view the new police force as sectarian, adding to a sense of alienation from the state.

Essentially the drive of “policing” in part, was to form a Protestant State for Protestants where strong- armed Oath of Allegiance tactics were employed to a solidify a new evolving Ulster. Catholics were in a minority position. None of the Murrays were signatories to that document.

Violence occurred during the strong-armed tactics employed, tarring and feathering was one tactic for example, reinforcing the climate of fear in the new region, again precipitating migration for some across the new border to the South. As well, movement of Protestants from the Free State migrated into Northern Ireland continued to take place.

Meanwhile in January 1922 south of the border, The Republican Dail (Parliament) ratified the Treaty by a vote of 64-67, established a provisional government pledging loyalty to the Irish Republic.

In April 1922, the IRA anti-Treaty bloc occupied 4 courts and public buildings confronting the British and by June a new Dail was elected with a pro Treaty majority. The IRA would not compromise with a defiant anti-treaty Eamon de Valera at the helm. Finally, on June 1922nd CIVIL WAR broke out in the Free State using field guns.

Separately, my father quizzically recalled Eamon de Valera to me in 1947 before my entry to the Mill Hill seminary on my first visit back to County Down with my father and brother Brendan. A further visit in 1952 to visit his sisters Madge and Lilly in Belfast was the occasion he took us to Ballygowan and Meta Murray McCauley his aunt. At that time the acts of tarring and feathering that took place on the bridge over the Lagan River in Belfast and a visit to the infamous Falls Road were recalled.

Between July and August 22 free state forces launched a successful offensive against anti treaty republicans in the South and West defeated them, The Republicans waged guerilla warfare subsequently.

By the 10th of October 1922, the Catholic Bishops of Ireland supported the free state where bitter hostility was stirred among some republicans as well. The Bishops issued a formal statement describing/denouncing the Anti Treaty Campaign as lacking legal authority and declared that the killing and assassination of National Soldiers was murder before GOD.

In addition, with respect to the atrocities and the matter of guerilla warfare carried out by “irregulars’, the Church’s position was that the seizure of public and private property, the sabotage of roads and bridges were without moral sanction and criminal, refusing to administer the sacraments to the fighters. The Anti-Treaty Irish Republican Army unable to maintain an effective guerilla campaign gradually lost support.

Our grandparents, located in Tollymore at the time likely faced a Hobson’s Choice on an enforced allegiance to Ulster, the proximity of the civil war, incursions to the North and their proximity to the border. These were among the likely factors in our grandparent’s resettlement decisions involving their offspring between 1922-1923. They would have been roughly 55 and 50 years old respectively at the time.

It is known that Tollymore became the family poultry farm and business. Alexander after Maynooth took over, eventually marrying Mary Green, my mother, in 1937, migrated to England and joined the World War 11 effort in 1942.

Alexander’s maternal Grandfather William Brown was an Architect from Newry and his Grandmother was from the McCauley line, the flax industry magnates of Ballynahinch. His paternal Grandparents were the Murray’s from the Mourne-Tollymore National Park region and Tullybrannigan.

Our Grandparents, stayed at Tollymore after the resettlement decision for their children had been carried out around 1923. Their deaths most likely occurred between 1923 and 1930. That time was coincident with Alexander’s return from Maynooth and before his marriage in 1937.

That subsequent questions and assertions that he left Maynooth because he lacked education and all the Murrays had been surrogates of the Browns lacks evidence. Alexander aged four was listed as pre-school age in the 1911 Census. He attended Ireland’s premier University in vocational pursuit while in his teens.

Alexander took our family, back to his home, to Ballygowan to visit his Aunt Meta of the McCauley family in 1947 and 1952. This was a post WW11 period of some lingering disquiet amid the established presence of the Ulster Constabulary in Northern Ireland.

Ethno-Nationalist conflict, also known as “The Troubles” or guerilla war erupted again on 5th October 1968 following a Civil Rights march in Londonderry. Again the constitutional status of Northern Ireland was at the heart of the conflict with all the repetitions, killings and sabotage of the previous civil war.

After thirty years of further murder, mayhem, and continual employment discriminations. Violence spilled over into the Republic, Britain and mainland Europe, while some IRA believers trained in Libyan terrorist camps.

The impact on society in Northern Ireland with a population of about 1.5 million was considerable. Three thousand were killed and up to 50, 000 were injured. I recall one of my 1970’s trips from Canada to visit my parents in England engaging with a troop of British servicemen returning from a tour of duty in Northern Ireland

As a Royal Air Force conscript who eventually enlisted, this encounter happened not to long after my own service in the Indonesian-Malaysian Conflict, that ended in 1972. We had much in common to express about insurgency and guerilla warfare and particularly in Northern Ireland. My immigration to Canada was in 1967 after having completed my reserve service at that time.

The last of Alexander’s immediate family left Northern Ireland during the 1960’s and early 70’s. Elizabeth (Lilly) stayed with our family in England when escalations were imminent. She had attended my wedding in 1960 along with Mary (Maisie).

Margaret (Madge), her husband and son Raymond were the last to leave and did so at the height of “The Troubles” named as such by association with the 1913-20 war of Independence, the 1921-1923 partition and Civil War.

Raymond (Jr) went to Earl’s Court in London. Madge and her husband Raymond (Sr) also came to London. Their exit from Northern Ireland was in the early 1970’s as guerilla tactics and tensions escalated amid severe discriminatory hiring practises, as they described to me.

On the death of Raymond (Sr) Madge and Maisie lived out their lives together in Parsons Green, London, where I visited them in the late 1970’s. The final emigration of our Grandparent’s family was complete.

My father Alexander passed on 20th January 1987 just before I joined the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

This Northern Ireland Conflict continued until The Good Friday Agreement was reached where Martin Mc Guinness was the Chief Sinn Fein negotiator. The Agreement was signed on 10th April 1998.

Interestingly, just after my retirement from the Canadian Department of External Affairs and International Trade, Canadian John de Chastelain of Romanian Origin, born 1937, and twice Chief of Defence Staff, former Canada-U.S. Ambassador, then retired, was appointed in 1997 to Chair the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning and to oversee the disarmament of paramilitary forces.

However, the IRA’s claim to be “committed to the search for a just and lasting peace” cut off contact with the Commission in February 2000 and October 2002. Even through the renowned perseverance and efforts of John de Chastelain it remained to be seen whether it was the end of “The Troubles” or not.

On my return to County Down in 2005 to complete the Murray Family History Book, the visit with my eldest grandson took us to Tollymore and Ballygowan and the ascent of Slieve Donard, Northern Ireland’s highest mountain. My sense was that the search for a just and lasting peace was very much a work in process. Discrimination and Recriminations were still in the overhead clouds of past experiences.

It is evident from the Murray Family viewpoint that our grandparents Patrick Joseph and Catherine Brow-Murray took the decision to ensure that their family was safe from the events and repercussions of the Irish civil war and the subsequent backlash of the political turmoil and guerilla warfare in their times.

Alexander had a hand in the subsequent emigration of Elizabeth (Lilly) and Margaret (Madge) who had both stayed in Belfast as well as the matters of repose for their parents, our grandparents likely in the Parish of Maghera in the period 1922-1923 or shortly thereafter.

Why did Patrick Joseph and Catherine-Brown McCauley Murray stay in Maghera? Patrick Joseph’s father had eleven children. Four were younger, than him, (1866) born between 1868-1872. His parents John Murray and Anne Walsh-Murray hailed from the same region-parish. They were of original Irish origin and agrarians.

In 2005 it was confirmed that many Murrays lived in the Maghera Parish and especially in the areas of Dundrum, Tullybranigan and Tollymore.

Today, the Junction at the intersection of Tollymore and the Castlewellan Roads is known as MURRAY CORNER. The intersection between Tollymore Road at the other end on Ballyhafry Road is St Patrick’s Church, Bryansford where my baptism took place in 1938.

The Parish of Maghera as described today is a faith community centred around two churches, Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Newcastle and St. Patricks Church in Bryansford County Down. It is believed that our grandparents may well be in repose at St Patrick’s in Bryansford close to their Tollymore Poultry farm and the entrance to the Tollymore National Park in County Down.



The Church of St. Patrick in its present form, has stood on the site situated on Ballyhafry Road since 1830.  St. Patrick’s, where the author was baptized in 1938, as it is today, a sanctuary which shaped the identity of all who prevailed, built, supported and maintained it.

St. Patrick’s was re-opened on Palm Sunday 2010 following extensive refurbishment, signifying an EASTER RISING of an enduring kind that still flourishes as it has for thousands of years.

Author: Kevin Bernard Murray-Born 1938, 33 Tollymore Road. County Down, Northern Ireland.

Dated: 12th April 2017. There are three generation of Alexander Murray in Canada and soon to be a fourth.

References: Recent press articles on the death of IRA Leader Martin McGuiness: Terry Glavin-National Post Canada.

Various research tools:

Wikipedia, excerpts from Laurentian University scholarly work on the Island of Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Conflict 1968-1998-An overview

The Northern Ireland Conflict 1968-1998 – An Overview

John de Chastelain: Chair of the International Commission on Decommissioning in Northern Ireland.

Historical Errors and Omissions Excepted.

Kevin Murray-Mourne is a former Trade Commissioner for Space, Aerospace, Defence and Security with the Department of External Affairs and International Trade Canada. He is a Veteran of Her Majesty’s Armed forces. He attended the Canadian Centre for Management Development, the Canadian Foreign Affairs Institute and is a Graduate of the American Management Associations Management Program.


Kevin Murray-Mourne is a former Trade Commissioner for Space, Aerospace, Defence and Security with the Department of External Affairs and International Trade Canada. He is a Veteran of Her Majesty’s Armed forces. He attended the Canadian Centre for Management Development, the Canadian Foreign Affairs Institute and is a Graduate of the American Management Associations Management Program.

One comment

  • Edwina Clare (Eddie) Molloy

    A great article, joining up a lot of the dots for me, so I thank you Kevin Murrray for this! Hopefully I will be able to join up a dot for you too with regards to the The Titanic part of the history…

    Once when staying around my grandparents home, 38 Kensington, Gosforth, Newcastle, the original Titanic movie just so happened to be screened on T.V. – this must have been in the late 1970’s- My grandmother Mary Murray, sat my sibling (s) Andrea ( and possibly Matthew) and myself, Edwina, to watch it, explaining that it was part of our family history – our great grandfather had been called in to substitute for the head chef ( or possibly one of the chefs) who had fallen ill, and so made the maiden journey from Belfast to Liverpool. However, on reaching Liverpool, news had reached that this particular chef had made a miraculous recovery, and so rejoined the ship in Liverpool, causing our great grandfather to come off the ship- this may have been a great disappointment to him at the time, but saved his life – if that had not happened, we may not have existed in our current form
    as the descendants we are today. I don’t know how much of my grandmothers account was accurate, add to that my understanding of it through the lens of a child and now recalling on it through a memory of something over 30 years ago, but it may join up a dot for you too…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *