Duke a local laddie
Former Bedfordview and Kensington resident, Mr Bruce Murray, succeeded his father as the 12th Duke of Atholl and is now the colonel-in-chief of the Atholl Highlanders, a Scottish infantry regiment. The Atholl Highlanders, based at the Blair Castle in Scotland, was established in 1777 to fight in the American Civil War but never did.
It was revived in 1844 by the sixth duke. The regiment, the only private army in Europe, was given Queen’s colours in 1845 by Queen Victoria in recognition of its service to her during her visits.
This allowed them to bear arms. They are all volunteers and have never fired a shot in anger. Today it is a 100-strong ceremonial regiment which may only exist as a bodyguard for the duke.
If the title becomes extinct, the regiment will cease to exist. It usually performs about five parades a year and does guard of honour duties at important functions.
Parades include those at the regiment’s annual inspection, when the duke visits to conduct the inspection and at the Atholl Gathering Highland Games, which is hosted by the duke.
This year the flags flew at half-mast at the Blair Castle during the gathering to mark the death of the 11th duke. Colonel John Murray (84), Knight of the Order of St John, died on May 15. Speaking about how his father inherited the title of duke and what type of man he was, Mr Murray said: “The previous three dukes before my father died without sons. My father is a direct descendant of the third duke. Now was the first time in the family’s history that a duke had a son and grandson while he was still alive. My father was a gentleman.
“He put others’ interests before his own. We hiked hundreds of miles together and he taught me invaluable bush craft. He took my mother Peggy, my older sister, younger brother and I on holiday every year and had us sit at the table for meals. He taught me manners, to respect elders and fellow man.”
This year the parade was inspected by His Royal Highness, Prince Michael of Kent. He presented the Atholl Highlanders with Jubilee medals.
“The parade is well attended by the local Scottish public. The games are traditional Highland games with caber tossing, hammer throwing, hay bale lifting and so forth.
“There is also a relay race between the officers, men and pipe band. My sons, one other officer and I won the race this year. This is the first time a duke has ever entered the event, let alone won it. I love meeting up with the folk in Scotland and our hosts at Blair Castle. They are down to earth, friendly people. “I also enjoy chatting to the Atholl Highlanders. After the parade this year, 55 of the Atholl Highlanders and the pipe band did a tour to USA and Bermuda. My first experience as the duke was to lead the tour. We did several parades for our sponsors and hosts and a full 21 gun salute parade in Bermuda for the Queen’s birthday. Being the duke is a big responsibility. I will try to do credit to the duty I have succeeded to. I regard it as an immense and very rare privilege. I treat my heritage and responsibility very seriously. I regard myself as a servant to the institution,” he said.
Although a duke today, Mr Murray has not forgotten where he came from and all that he learnt in the past. While living in Norman Road in Bedfordview, Mr Murray cycled through Wychwood and Malvern to school whether it rained or the sun was out. “I loved living in Bedfordview. Most of the houses were on smallholdings with verges and small livestock, like chickens.
“We even had a piglet called Josephine. It was a village with a butcher, green grocer and hardware and so forth. The N1 highway was built when we lived there. We used to race old motorcycles on the freshly graded surface when it was under construction. We lived at the foot of the koppie and we sometimes camped there.
“People we met there, such as the Lucas, Mc Laughlan and O’Beirne families, are still friends. I have visited Bedfordview a few times. “It has changed remarkably. It looks like there are about eight houses on the property where I grew up,” he said.
Mr Murray attended Jeppe High School for Boys from 1976 to 1978.
“It was a good school with strict discipline. The school buildings and grounds are beautiful and it has one of the best cricket wickets in the country,” he said.
Mr Murray (52), moved to Highland Road in Kensington and went to the army in 1979. He served as an officer in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) at Oudtshoorn and Bloemfontein and did his time in South West Africa and Angola.
He furthered his studies at Pretoria Technicon. After studying nature conservation for a year, he moved on to forestry at Saasveld College in George.
Mr Murray then moved to a small farm on top of the Soutpansberg just outside Louis Trichardt in Limpopo. He owns a manufacturing business where he makes signs and rubber stamps. “I am married to my darling wife Charmaine, the Duchess. I have two sons, 26-year-old David and 27-year-old Michael, the Marquis of Tullibardine and a daughter Nicky, aged 25. I describe myself as happy with life, self-sufficient and reliable. I love being at home with my wife, dogs and garden. We both have motorcycles and tour together. I also have a scrambler and spend a lot of time exploring the Soutpansberg,” he said.
Also close to his heart is the Scottish Horse War Memorial in Kensington.
“The memorial is important to me personally. It is part of my family’s heritage. The Scottish Horse was raised in South Africa by the Marquis of Tullibardine during the Boer War as a cavalry unit. He later became the 8th duke. The remnants of the unit at the end of the war were raised into the Transvaal Scottish, which exists today as a unit of the SANDF.
“They wear the Murray of Atholl Tartan and use my family tune (The Atholl Highlander) as their regimental march. I saw the vandalism of the monument and am delighted that it has been restored.
Daughter – Nicky
“Vandalising monuments seems to be a sign of the fast degeneration of our society’s interest in their history. What a pity,” he said. In a special message to pupils at Jeppe High School for Boys, Mr Murray said: “Make the most of any opportunities that fall into your hands. Respect your teachers and elders in the community. Be proud of being a student at one of the oldest and most beautiful schools in South Africa.”