News

Sadly, the first news article in our new website is the announcement that Royal High Music legend Dr John Murray passed away at his home in Le Gouzot in France on Monday 19th April. The message distributed to the wider Royal High School Community read as follows:

“The Royal High School Club is sad to announce the death of Dr John Murray.    John, who was aged 77, died suddenly at home on Monday 19th April in Le Gouzot, France.     His funeral has already taken place.

John pictured on 5th October 2018 at the Barnton 50th anniversary dinner at Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh. This photo is a still image from his video interview conducted by Tom Bacciarelli

John arrived at the Royal High in 1971 as Principal Teacher of Music after the death of Bill Bowie, becoming Assistant Rector in 1979, then Depute Rector in 1985, a position he held until his retirement in 2003.    He was also Acting Rector in 1998. John will forever be associated with the School music trips, the first of which was to Florence in 1975, then many more to Italy and Munich.    He also made a major contribution to School sports, especially rugby.

In 1997, his volume ‘A History of the Royal High School’ was published and remains the enduring hardback history of the Royal High School to this day.

We feel sure that given a relaxation in Covid restrictions, some form of celebration of John’s life will be held in due course, and the Royal High School Club will consider it a privilege to be part of it”.

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Fortunately, we have some great recorded memories of John, including the 2018 Interview at Dynamic Earth, his speech at the RHS 2006 London Club dinner, and Shona Thomson’s 2003 article about his choir-conducting methods. Finally (for the moment) we have a few documents and photographs… There also a number of Tributes shown following the gallery.

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Click any image in the gallery to enable a fullscreen slideshow

Tributes

The following are some of the memories of John which have been recorded in the past few days…

He was hugely influential in our formative years, certainly made me understand how much fun music could be.   Polly Smith

“Gratefully remembering Uncle John, and thinking of Auntie Joan, Rachel & Ben — with much love from many FPs and KTs.”    John changed so many lives.   In amongst the sadness and the memories, I can’t help picturing him grinning at the funeral music: Brahms & Liszt…   I’ll raise a glass to that, and him, this evening.   Ken Thomson

He was a massive influence in the lives of all of us, and no doubt we can eventually figure out some suitable way of marking his passing.    Probably involving some music, some eating and some drinking.  Howard Duthie

He was a musical legend at Royal High.   Irene Clouston

My time at the RHS was a magical transformation for which I owe John an eternal debt of gratitude. Although I do remember him saying, after I showed him some of my first attempts at composition, “why does anybody write that rubbish?”   Fergus Currie

I have been thinking of all the memories – wonderfully fond memories as you say. I’ll keep on cherishing those. What a wonderful person he was.   Janet McDonald

So sorry to hear this news.  I wouldn’t have enjoyed High School and made as many friends without the Music Dept.  John Murray was such a natural at getting us to engage in music and perform on stage. I have lots of happy memories of us all down at his mill house and on our music trips abroad.    Eleanor Mitchell

John’s enthusiasm, expressed as ‘music is for everyone’ certainly was legendary especially when it came to the school trips to Munich and various parts of Italy.    It was quite something to see and hear the ‘rugby boys’ singing the bass parts of Vivaldi’s Gloria and other various pieces we had learned for the tours with great gusto.      June Nelson

John Murray and the music department at RHS were both inspirational and influential to many of us, with a legacy that has extended far beyond our school days.   I have fond memories of the people and the journey that started with a common musical interest.    We still talk about the trips to Munich and Florence although they almost seem to belong to a bygone age. I shall raise a glass to John in memory.   Adrian Day

So many of my fondest memories of school included this guy! Singing Christmas carols, touring Tuscany, prize-giving. He left his mark – the epitome of an inspiring teacher.    Beverley Hope

Very sad news indeed, he was there throughout my 6 years at the school. Michael Rutherford

An exceptional and inspiring colleague 1974-78, and a lifelong friend thereafter. Vivid memories of the first Florence trips, “The Mikado”, “Ruddigore” and much else. Rather less light and laughter in a world without John.     Dave Thornton

Heartfelt sympathies to the family of Dr John Murray. His presence around the school was unrivalled, never too busy to come and watch the 1st XV. I will never forget the smile on his face when we beat Glasgow Academy in 2003.     Niall Statham

I would like to add something to the condolences for Mr Murray.   He passed away recently not remembering me and without any idea what fundamental influence his engagement in setting up the Munich & Edinburgh school choir friendship had on my life.   My love for Scotland, my desire to live and work abroad, my understanding of what Europe can be at its best and in a way my personal development towards an independent human being have been kicked off by this man’s ideas and actions. I will never forget how curious, empowered and free I felt during my first choir visit to Edinburgh in 1992.    I was 14 then.     Goodbye, Mr Murray.   What a great teacher you were. It was an honour to be shouted at by you for not paying attention to the magnificence of Mozart.    My deepest sympathy to the family, friends and colleagues of this great man.   Best regards from Munich.  Claudia Urschbach (exchange student 1991-1995).

I am so sorry to hear this news. And my heart goes out to Dr Murray’s wife and children. We visited John and his wife a few years ago in France, when Gabriel was just a baby and we had such a lovely afternoon in their beautiful home. He will forever be an influence in my life – a guiding force and his love of music, rugby and good beer had an impact on all of us who went on the choir trips. He was firm but fair, a strong presence at RHS but once one got to know him, very funny, caring and kind. Rosie Kay

I arrived as a pupil at the school in Barnton at the same time as John Murray arrived in the music department. He was our form tutor and introduced himself along the lines of “I’m six foot one, I play rugby and I weigh sixteen stone so don’t mess me around.” We didn’t.   I was one of those who travelled to Florence in 1975 and still remember eating pizza and then smuggling bottles of red wine back to the monastery we stayed in during our week there. We had a number of very talented young musicians in our group and I remember the local people enjoying the concerts we gave.   RIP John.    Mike Whittaker

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If you would like to add a tribute, please click here, and add your message. If you would like to contact Joan Murray personally, please advise us.