MURRAY, Lord John (1711-87), of Pitnacree, Perth and Bannercross, Yorks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1734 - 1761

Family and Education

b. 14 Apr. 1711, 4th surv. s. of John, 1st. Duke of Atholl [S], by his 2nd w. Mary, da. of William, 12th Lord Ross of Halkhead [S].  educ. private sch. Chelsea 1720; ?St. Andrews Univ.; Leyden 1728.  m. 13 Sept. 1758, Mary, da. of Richard Dalton, Sheffield merchant, 1da.

Offices Held

Ensign 3 Ft. Gds. 1727, capt.-lt. and capt. 1737, capt. and lt.-col. 1738; col. army 1743; col. 43, later 42 Ft. (Black Watch) Apr. 1745- d.; maj.-gen. 1755; lt.-gen. 1758; gen. 1770; raised 2nd Batt. 42 Ft. 1780.


Murray was the half-brother of three Jacobites ‘out’ in the ‘15, two of whom also held high command in the rebel army in the’45. Brought up as a Whig, he owed his advancement to Islay’s friendship for his half-brother James, who, displacing William, the Jacobite heir, succeeded as 2nd Duke in 1724. Murray supported Walpole until his fall and thereafter attached himself to Pelham and Newcastle.

Re-elected in 1754 after some abortive opposition, Murray was listed ‘pro’ by Dupplin, remained faithful to Newcastle, and voted for him in the division of 2 May 1757 on Minorca. During the 1757 negotiations, when Newcastle was considering an administration which might exclude Argyll, he listed Murray as attached neither to himself nor the ‘Viceroy’ but among the Scots ‘not to be relied on at present, to be treated with’. Murray’s relations had deteriorated both with Atholl and Argyll, whose interference in regimental affairs he resented.1 He did not accompany the 42nd to America in 1756, but remained at home actively engaged in raising new levies. Though a conscientious commander and proud of his regiment, he was by no means popular with the Perthshire freeholders, who thought he neglected their interests by remaining in Scotland in November 1759, instead of presenting their case to Parliament on the distilling bill.2

Against Atholl he had a private grievance. Believing that, since Lord George was attainted, the succession to the dukedom should devolve upon himself, he resented Atholl’s marrying his daughter to young John Murray, Lord George’s son, and suspected his reconciliation with Lady George and her Jacobite friends. During the militia agitation young Murray on 1 Apr. 1760, presided at a freeholders’ meeting, of which Lord John later complained to Hardwicke:3

Mr. Murray was attended by most of [the Tories and non-jurors] in order to petition Parliament for a militia ... which was his first public appearance in the county. I made an objection to one part of it, viz. that Jacobitism was totally eradicated out of this county, when so many were present that never qualified; it was insisted it should remain in the petition, and was accordingly, as they were the majority.

Lord John perforce presented the petition without his modifications, and in the division of 15 Apr. voted for the militia bill.

When two months later Atholl set up his son-in-law as candidate for the county, Lord John, in dismay, appealed to Newcastle and Hardwicke for support: ‘I have kept the Whigs united above 26 years and the Tories have been kept under for want of a head until now.’4 On the death of Lord George in October 1760, Atholl took counsels’ opinion on his nephew’s right of inheritance. Their favourable report dashed Lord John’s hopes of succeeding to the dukedom and confirmed Argyll’s open support of his rival.5 The day before the election Lord John gave up the hopeless contest and joined his nephew.

Although formally reconciled with Murray and Atholl,6 Lord John was bitterly chagrined. Disappointed in his hopes of obtaining, through Newcastle, in 1762 a command either at home or abroad,7 he sought to win court favour through Bute. On the death of Atholl in 1764 Lord John opposed his nephew’s succession on the ground that there was no proof of Lord George’s death.8 When, on incontrovertible evidence from Holland, Murray’s claim was established, Lord John speciously congratulated the new Duke, but immediately went off to Perthshire, where at the by-election, finding his own candidature unacceptable, he supported the court nominee Colonel Graeme against the Atholl interest.9

At the general election of 1768 and again in 1769 Lord John made an attempt to replace Andrew Mitchell in Elgin Burghs, but was again disappointed. In 1773, when Graeme vacated Perthshire and three candidates contested the by-election, Lord John circularized the freeholders, recounting his past services:10

This great contest is likely to breed so much animosity ... that ... I presume ... for the peace and quiet of our county ... to make an offer of myself to represent you for the short time this Parliament has to continue ... you’ll have time to consider more deliberately who will be the most proper to give your united voices to at the general election.

When ‘nobody offered to support him, he gave his vote to his nephew’ James Murray.11

After this rebuff Lord John abandoned Perthshire, sold most of his Scottish estates, retired to Bannercross, and made no further attempt to enter Parliament. Disappointed of a command during the American war, he devoted himself to his Royal Highlanders, of whose interests he was a pugnacious defender.12 He died in Paris 26 May 1787.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest


  • 1. Atholl Chrons. iii. 428, 442.
  • 2. Add. 32899, f. 213.
  • 3. Add. 35449, f. 272.
  • 4. Ibid. f. 274.
  • 5. Atholl Chrons. iii. 480.
  • 6. Ibid. 481.
  • 7. Add. 32934, f. 371.
  • 8. Atholl Chrons. iv. 63-64.
  • 9. Lord John to W. Mure, 28 June 1764, Caldwell mss, NLS.
  • 10. Add. 35611, ff. 98, 267.
  • 11. Jas. Abercrombie to Loudoun, 13 June 1773, Loudoun mss.
  • 12. Murray to W. Mure, 28 June 1764, Caldwell mss.