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The assassination of Mr. James Murray of Adair Estate,
November 1860, in the county of Donegal, Ireland

The Webmaster has been assisting a resident, near Letterkenny in Co. Donegal, Eire, to trace family history of James Murray whose story appears below, with a view to contacting descendants.

James Murray was born about 1827, probably in Perthshire in Scotland, the son of David Murray and Catherine Cameron.  On 9th February 1858, aged 31, at Viewforth, Edinburgh, he married Mary McLaren aged 22. The bride was born at Killin, Perthshire to John McLaren and Catherine Christie. The groom was stated to be a labourer, but believed to have become a shepherd in later times.  The marriage witnesses were D. Ferguson and Andrew Kinross.

Two children were born at Tentagh, Churchill, Co Donegal, Ireland. The first being Catherine Murray in 1859 and Jemima in April 1861 about 5 months after the murder of her father.

Readers will likely be aware of the "Highland Clearances" that took place in Scotland, but such clearances were not particular to that area (including 'Lowland Clearances' in Scotland).  Landowners found that they could make more money from the tending of sheep on their land than the usually very small rents they could raise from tenants of small farms or crofts.  So it was on the Adair Estate in County Donegal in Ireland. Ireland was entirely under British control at this time and many landowners owned large estates in Ireland (see below).  James Murray travelled with his wife from Scotland and took a position to likely become a shepherd and tend to the estate.  In order to facilitate this major change in land use the tenants of the farms on the estate were substantially dispossessed.  Not surprisingly they were aggrieved by this action of the landowner.  James Murray became the target of their vengeance and as you can read in the newspaper cutting below, was murdered at Glenveagh.

The following is reproduced from The LONDON TIMES newspaper at the time, November 1860



DUBLIN, Saturday.

The latest particulars published in reference to the assassination of Mr. John (JAMES) Murray in the county of Donegal, of which I appraised you yesterday by telegram, are as follows:-

“It appears Murray left his cottage about 10 o’clock on Tuesday morning, accompanied by two or three dogs, to look after his master’s estate, and had travelled nearly a mile and a half from  home when he met his fate. The police had been scouring the country from the first suspicion that Murray had been foully made away with. Their search, however, on Tuesday and Wednesday proved ineffectual. The tenantry on the Adair estate were warned to turn out, they being familiar with the district, and search for the missing land-steward, whom they shortly succeeded in finding at the foot of the precipice, at the distance from his house mentioned above, about 9 o’clock on Thursday morning, and they at once brought the intelligence to a party of police preparing for a day’s search, and all hastened to the spot and found the corpse of poor Murray. He lay on his back, on a ledge of one of the rocks near the foot of the precipice, with his face turned upwards. One of his arms lay across his breast, and the other by his side. His hair was dishevelled, clotted with blood, and the eyes open. The body bore marks sufficient to prove that Murray met his death by violence. The poor fellow seems to have made a desperate fight for life, for all along the edge of the precipice footmarks indicate that a struggle took place. The face of the murdered man presented a sad spectacle. Immediately under the right eye was a frightful wound, as if inflicted by a blunt instrument, and there was a similar wound on the right temple. Murray’s skull, upon examination, was found to have been completely smashed in. His shirt and the breast of his coat were torn by the hands of the fiends who murdered him.  Near where the corpse lay was found a five-barrelled revolver, with the stock smashed. The police state that the wood part was completely wrenched from the steel work. Upon inspecting this weapon it was found that one of the barrels had been discharged. Near to the body was found a large stone, weighing about seven pounds, covered with blood and hair. There was also found near the body a button which corresponded with those on his shirt. The body was carried to the cottage which he had left only two mornings before in health and strength. One can well imagine the feelings of his poor widow and on receiving the remains of her dead husband. He has left one child.”

The Webmaster has been informed that the police were unable to identify the culprit/s. The estate tenantry were unable or, more likely, unwilling to assist with the murder enquiry and  so the landowner took severe sanctions against them.  He evicted all the tenants from his estate. The following extract from THIS WEBSITE gives a little more.
"The estate of Glenveagh was created in 1857-9 by the purchase of several smaller holdings by John George Adair from Co. Laois.  Adair incurred infamy throughout Donegal and Ireland by evicting some 244 tenants in the cold April of 1861.  Most of the evictions took place at the edge of the estate, along the shore of Lough Gartan.  Many of the dispossessed made their way to Australia while others found refuge with relatives or were forced into the Workhouse." Adair Estate is now the Glenveagh National Park.

James's widow, Mary returned to Scotland and she married Lachlan McIntyre on 4th June 1867 at Comrie, Perthshire. They had children, Peter, at Comrie (26 NOV 1867); at  Monzievaird, Perthshire, John ( 28 AUG 1869), Margaret (1872) & James (1874); Mary, at Comrie (c.1874); Christina at Errol (c.1881). It seems that Catherine Murray (b.1859) may have died as no further record has been found of her.

Mary and Lachlan lived at Monikie and she died there on 10th October 1901. Hear name and some family members appear on the 1901 Census for Broomwell House, Monikie shortly before her death.

Jemima, daughter of Mary and James, came to Scotland with her mother. She married William Gow on 9th June 1882 at Inchcoonans, Errol, Perthshire. They had children David at Errol (19 JUL 1882); John (c.1889) & Jemima (10 APR 1891) both at Perth; Peter at Aberdalgie (29 JUL 1897), all Perthshire. David married Emma Gertrude Piggot on 26th December 1918 at Carlisle, England and their son, John Murray Gow, was born in Perth on 17 JUL 1925. Peter Gow married Helen Anderson at Perth on 17th September 1949.

Jemima (1861) died at Stobhill Hospital in in Glasgow in 1944. Her son Peter (1897) lived at the same usual address as his mother at that date. On the occasion of Peter's marriage (after his mother's death) aged 53, the address given for one of the witnesses was the same, 297 Ardgay Street, Glasgow as Peter and his mother.

From Mary's second marriage, son Peter McIntyre married Annie Lauder on 29th March 1893. They had a son also called Peter born at Kinbuck, Dunblane, Perthshire on 14 FEB 1896 who married Christina Penman Laing and he died on 20 FEB 1969 at Falkirk R.I. usual address 7 Vale View, Stenhousemuir, Stirlingshire.
Stirling Council tell me "Peter and Christina McIntyre are listed as registered voters there up until to 1970 (this is an obvious registration error as Peter died in February 1969). After this point the house appears to have no registered voters (so was most likely unoccupied) until 1974, when residents under the name of McLean become evident." If any descendants of this couple, or any family are reading this, please make contact.

Her daughter, Mary McIntyre had an illegitimate daughter named Mary Craig born about 1890 according to census records.

Jemima (1891) is believed to have moved to Canada in 1911.

The Webmaster has more detail and documents about this family that he has researched on behalf of the lady in Letterkenny. She particularly wishes to make contact with a descendant of JAMES MURRAY whose sad demise started this tale.

Can you please assist?  It is believed that some members of the family emigrated to Canada and/or the United States of America. Are you descended from anyone shown above, or related to them?

A GEDCOM file can be provided to anyone who can show some connection.

The Webmaster cannot obviously vouch for the veracity of all the above and any reader who can add to this story, or wish to comment are invited to do so, preferably with sources.




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This page was updated - 09 December, 2014