A fair dinkum Scots nobleman

By John Lewis

Joy and Malcolm Murray, the 12th Earl of Dunmore, in Dunedin. Photo / Gregor Richardson
Joy and Malcolm Murray, the 12th Earl of Dunmore, in Dunedin. Photo / Gregor Richardson

When meeting the Earl of Dunmore for the first time, there is an expectation one will be greeted by a Scots peer with a thick Highland burr.

Instead, an Aussie bloke called Malcolm Murray answers the door with a sturdy, but welcoming, "Gidday, mate".

A moment of confusion reigns until he explains all the titled family is now extinct in Scotland and he is the next living heir.

The 66-year-old Tasmanian was in Dunedin during the weekend for the Murray clan reunion - one of his many official duties as the 12th Earl of Dunmore.

Mr Murray said he inherited the title rather unexpectedly in 1995, when the previous earl, who had no sons to inherit the title, died of cancer.

At the time, Mr Murray said he was a humble aerodrome technician, happily repairing and maintaining navigation equipment at airports in Devonport, Tasmania - oh, and he just happened to be related to the 11th Earl of Dunmore.

But his life became very different when the title was bestowed upon him.

He was now retired, and when he visited London, he was entitled to certain privileges, such as sitting in the House of Lords.

He made both his maiden and final speech in the House of Lords on November 25, 1998, but was no longer allowed to vote or speak in the chamber, because of a legislation change in 1999.

That did not bother him. Because of his background, and the unexpected title, he said he downplayed the role.

"When we go to London, we could be treated like royalty, but we don't tell anyone. We keep it to ourselves.

"We are who we are. We carry out our duties when we're invited to.

"We're still fair dinkum Aussies. We still cook our own barbies and mow our own lawns.

"We're not manor-born. We're just ordinary people.

"We probably wouldn't survive a life of privilege."

While Mr Murray said he could trace his lineage back to the first Earl of Dunmore Lord Charles Murray, a title created in 1686, more impressively, he could trace it back as far as the year 1130.

"There are very few people who can do that," he said.

These days, Mr Murray travels the world to Murray clan events and functions like the one in Dunedin at the weekend, up to 12 times a year, and his diary is "booked up" for two years in advance, he said.

"The Dunedin function was magic. We love Dunedin.

"This is a fantastic way to live in retirement."

- Otago Daily Times

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