MURRAY, WALTER, member of the Council of Quebec, commissioner of the port of Quebec, and justice of the peace; b. 1701 or 1702 in Ireland; buried 4 April 1772 at Quebec.
Although he was born and educated in Ireland, Walter Murray was a member of the Elibank family of Great Britain and hence related to James Murray. Walter spent a long time in the British American colonies, as an itinerant actor according to a letter written by Guy Carleton* in 1766. When or in what capacity Murray arrived in Quebec is not known. Some authors maintain that he came as an officer in Wolfe *’s army, but it is more likely that he immigrated after the conquest; his correspondence indicates that he would never have come if friends in Maryland had not persuaded him that his family connection with the governor could be useful to him and his son Richard. In any event, he was evidently in Quebec when civil government was established in August 1764, since James Murray at that time appointed him to various important positions even though he could not speak French. Described by the governor as “a man of good Sense and Education, has lived long in the Colonies and is conversant in the nature of them,” Walter Murray was sworn in as a member of the first Council of Quebec on 13 Aug. 1764. Eleven days later he was appointed a justice of the peace in the districts of Quebec and Montreal and on 14 September was made receiver general of the province. He delegated his powers as receiver general to his son. However, the right to appoint to this important office did not rest with the governor but with the lords of the Treasury Board, who chose Thomas Mills for the post. Later Walter Murray was to be appointed commissioner of the port of Quebec.
After James Murray’s departure in June 1766, Walter remained a member of the Council. On 13 October he and Paulus Æmilius Irving, Adam Mabane, François Mounier*, and James Cuthbert signed a remonstrance addressed to Carleton, then lieutenant governor. They objected to Carleton’s summoning only part of the Council and giving precedence to councillors appointed by the king over those chosen by Murray.
Walter Murray was obviously greatly disappointed when he learned that his relative had decided not to return to Quebec. He explained his views in a letter to Murray in 1767 in which, recalling his former profession as an actor, he borrowed words from Hamlet to describe his own situation and that of his son. He would have liked the former governor to find him a post with a good salary in any British colony. He did not seem particularly happy to be living in Canada, “a Place destitute of every thing that can make life pass away tolerably agreeable; A Place fitt only to send Exiles to, as a punishment for their past ill spent lives.” Nevertheless Walter Murray remained in Quebec until his death, attending the Council for the last time on 30 Sept. 1771. He was stricken with paralysis and died the following April.
PAC, MG 11, [CO 421, Q, 2, p.300; 3, p.361; 4, p.60; 8, p.155; MG 23, GII, 1, ser.1, 3, pp.203–7; RG 1, E1, 1, p.l; RG 4, A1, 11, p.4374. PRO, CO 42/1, p.397; 42/2, pp.38, 56, 80, 248; 42/3, pp.158, 163 (PAC transcripts). Coll. of several commissions (Maseres), 153. Doc. relatifs à l’hist. constitutionnelle, 1759–91 (Shortt et Doughty; 1921), I, 248–52, 277. Burt, Old prov. of Que. (1968), I, 76, 119–20; II, 186. P.-G. Roy, Toutes petites choses du Régime anglais (2 sér., Québec, 1946), 1re sér., 17. F.-J. Audet, “Les législateurs de la province de Québec, 1764–1791,” BRH, XXXI (1925), 439. É.-Z. Massicotte, “Les tribunaux de police de Montréal,” BRH, XXVI (1920), 181. P.-G. Roy, “Josephte Murray,” BRH, XLV (1939), 23–24.