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The Murray Collection.

The broadsides featured on this website are taken from the Murray Collection in Glasgow University Library (see The collection was put together by David Murray (1842-1928), a Glasgow solicitor and long-time friend of the University.

David Murray was the son of a Glasgow writer (or solicitor) of the same name. He grew up in Kirkoswald, but was sent to Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh (in 1913 he published his memoirs of his schooldays). He attended Glasgow University Old College (before the University move to its current site at Gilmorehill) from 1857 to 1863, and continued to study law at the University during his apprenticeship to a Glasgow solicitor. His Memories of the Old College of Glasgow (1927) offer vivid recollections of student life at this period. In 1871 he set up in partnership with David Maclay and John Spens to form the firm Maclay Murray and Spens. The firm, still in practice, operated from offices in Great George Street, Glasgow. David Murray’s son and grandson would follow him into this firm. To judge by his publications, Murray specialised in Scottish land law; he wrote numerous works on conveyancing, land registration and the valuation of property. But he was also interested in the law from a historical point of view, as demonstrated by his study of Legal Practice in Ayr and the West of Scotland in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries. He was knowledgeable about economics (he was secretary of the Adam Smith Club of Glasgow), and had a particular expertise in the history of accountancy and bookkeeping. His work on this subject was published posthumously.

In 1872 Murray married Frances Stoddart, the daughter of an American family living in Port Glasgow. They would have one son and three daughters, one of whom would become the leading Scottish feminist Eunice Murray. (David Murray was himself an active campaigner on feminist issues, helping to found the Glasgow Ladies Higher Education Association in 1876.) Frances Murray gave public lectures on Scottish song, so the ballad collection may represent a joint enterprise. Eunice’s memoir of her mother’s life, published three years after her death in 1917, provides a account of David and Frances’ courtship (sometimes conducted under the guise of archaeological jaunts), and their married life at the family home Cardross. From Eunice’s reminiscences, and the letters she published from her parents, it is clear that the Murrays’ marriage was a loving one. But Eunice also mentions that her mother was "always anxious to spare my father in his busy life". Given the range of David Murray’s activities this comes as little surprise.

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This is a view of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert leaving the Old College in High Street during their visit
of 1849. This was the first time a monarch had visited the city since 1745 and the visit was very popular.
Reproduced by permission of Glasgow Libraries.

David Murray was, at various times, a Fellow and Vice-President of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (and its Rhind Lecturer in Archaeology in 1908), President of the Glasgow Archaeological Society (1895-6), President of the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow (1904-7), and President of the Glasgow Bibliographical Society (1912-13). He wrote important works in all these fields, including: biographies of antiquarians; a guide to the manuscripts of the Scotichronicon; an important study of Early Burgh Organization in Scotland (1924-32); An Archaeological Survey of the United Kingdom (1906); and Museums, Their History and their Use (1904, for long the standard text in this field).

Murray remained involved with the University throughout his life; he was for many years the Chairman of the Library Committee. Shortly before his death he donated most of his personal collection of more than 15,000 books and 200 manuscripts to the University Library. The collection demonstrates his range of interests. It has particular strengths in old school books and legal and accountancy texts, but it also demonstrates his abiding enthusiasm for the history of Glasgow and the west of Scotland. He not only collected Glasgow imprints such as Foulis and Urie, but anything relating to the economic and social life of the city. This included a huge range of ephemera such as chapbooks (see the Scottish Chapbook Catalogue on the links page), advertisements, handbills, posters, guides and, of course, broadsides. Some of these broadsides can be found in the various ‘themed’ cartons of the Murray collection, such as those to do with the railways. Attempting to reunite them for this website would be a complex task. Therefore, all the ballads on this website have been taken from four bound volumes of broadsides, catalogued as Mu23-y1-4. There is no clear principle guiding the selection of these bound broadsides (were they bought altogether or over time? do they represent the range of broadsides on sale in the mid nineteenth century, or only those that caught Murray’s interest?), although he does appear to have made a special effort to collect the output of the printer James Lindsay. The total collection amounts to several hundred broadsides, not all of which could be included in this project. We have primarily chosen those either printed in Glasgow or those with a clear Glasgow or Scottish connection. As this represents the bulk of the collection, perhaps Murray was working along the same lines.


David Hopkin.



Despite his contribution in many fields, there is no modern study of David Murray. The information here is taken from his own publications, that of his daughter Eunice, and a short article by Professor David Walker in the University magazine Avenue (June 1992). Other information has been supplied by Julie Coleman of Special Collections, Glasgow University Library, and Eleanor Gordon of the Department of Economic and Social History.