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Alexander Murray


1775 - 1813

Classical scholar and linguist. Born in a cottage at Dunkitterick (Dumfries and Galloway), Murray was the son of a shepherd who was already seventy years old. His education began simply, taught to read using the Bible by his father. However his progress was such that an uncle paid for his education at New Galloway from 1784. After a period of illness, his education continued at the school at Minnigaff. By 1790, he was studying French and Latin, then Greek and Hebrew. He worked at the mill in Minnigaff and taught the miller's children. Murray continued to absorb himself in new languages, including German, Anglo-Saxon, Welsh and Abyssinian. In 1794, he met the poet Robert Burns (1759-96) in Dumfries. In 1794, following Burns' advice he went to Edinburgh where he was given a scholarship to study at the University. He was able to graduate in divinity.

Murray wrote prodigiously, contributing to the Scots Magazine but also spent three years (1799 - 1802) writing a seven-volume account of the life and travels of explorer James Bruce (1730-94). His other works include a History of the European Languages and Outlines of Oriental Philology.

In 1806, he was appointed Assistant Minister at Urr (near Dalbeattie, Kirkcudbrightshire) and he took on the living in 1808.

He was appointed to the Chair of Oriental languages at the University of Edinburgh in 1812, but it was not long before his health failed and he died aged only 37. He was buried in Greyfriars kirkyard in Edinburgh. Murray's Monument was built on a hill at Tallnotry, close to his birth-place.


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