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“A most enthusiastic supporter of the game” : Leisure Activities

When the Scottish curling team toured Canada and the United States in 1902-03, they met Walter Murray, whom they described as the “President, Historian, and Poet-Laureate” of the Halifax curling club and “a most enthusiastic supporter of the game.”

The ephemera which has survived shows materials dating from 1853 to 1945 relating to curling – alas, only to the Halifax clubs, although Murray has been described as one of the fathers of curling in Saskatoon (Vera Pezer, The Stone Age).

Images and ephemera indicate the family enjoyed a range of activities, from theatre to sports. Jean Bayer, who would join the Murrays out west, was a friend from their Halifax days, and can be seen here as part of a family picnic; and playing the part of “Sarah Perkins” in a Halifax theatre production.

The Murray girls – perhaps Christina and Lucy in particular – appear to have been active in sports:

Walter, too, was not above joining in a few games on campus. Here, he stands in the centre (taking a drink of water) during a lawn bowling game behind the College Building, ca. 1920s. George Ling is one of the few others easily recognizable, second from the left.

During World War I and particularly following the events of 1919, the family regularly took holidays at Big River, Saskatchewan. As his biographers noted,

How and why this remote village on the shore of a long, narrow northern lake was chosen is a mystery. Indeed, how Murray discovered it is puzzling. It is almost 150 miles north of Saskatoon and was accessible only by poor rail service or by poorer dirt trails. It was certainly not a thriving family centre. In 1919 Mrs. Murray was in charge when accommodation of a sort was erected….This first ‘cottage’ cost $150.00 and the president’s wife worried about their ability to pay this modest sum. The prospect of having a little more security than tenting, which she hated, probably made it worthwhile. The Murray’s cottage was toward the end of the lake farthest from the village and was the sole cottage reached by ‘Murray’s trail.’” (The Prairie Builder, p. 176.)

Its relative inaccessibility – and distance from any cares at the University – must have made it a relaxing retreat for Murray; and that in itself may have made him more amenable to Gus Kenderdine’s later suggestion of an art camp at Emma Lake. The area, too, was ethnically diverse; potentially contributing to his specific as well as theoretical support of immigration and the issues facing recent immigrants.

Neither could it have hurt that Murray, from New Brunswick, was apparently quite handy with an axe.

The President’s Residence has always been viewed as both a private dwelling and a public building – no doubt starting with the Murrays, who held numerous events, hosting a variety of groups and individuals there over the years. Bliss Carmen, an alumnus as was Murray, of Collegiate School in Fredericton, clearly enjoyed his visits to the campus.

And a Murray tradition, dating to their Halifax years, was to host an annual children’s party for the children at Christmas.