A Chichester hero remembered on film

A new film commemorates ‘one of Chichester’s heroes’ 200 years after he served as city mayor.

Sir George Murray was hugely respected in the city where he is remembered for his association with what later became the Ship Hotel.

Richard

Richard

But it was on the wider stage that he found his true place in history, as one of Nelson’s closest friends and confidantes.

In fact, but for the death of a his father-in-law, the chances are that Murray would have been standing next to Horatio Nelson on that fateful day at the Battle of Trafalgar.

A popular naval saying still recalls the trust Nelson placed in Murray. “Murray or none” still means “no one else will do” in naval circles. The phrase was first spoken by Nelson himself – testament to his faith in his Chichester friend.

As Richard Plowman, a key figure in the Murray commemorations, says: “If Murray hadn’t had to stay behind and miss Trafalgar, Nelson might well have said ‘Kiss me, Murray’ and not ‘Kiss me, Hardy!’”

The film was made by Clive Hand after Richard approached Chichester Film and Video Makers. The 17-minute movie, entitled My Dear Murray, has already been shown in the Chichester by the city’s Murray Club.

The film has been released to coincide with a new edition of My Dear Murray, Barry Aldridge’s biography of the man. The biography provides the basis for the film.

The biography first came out in 2002: “And it was the first I had heard about Admiral Sir George Murray. He was the chap who built The Ship, he was mayor of Chichester and he was very, very high up in Nelson’s navy. And he also had a very respected and active life in Chichester. Georgian Chichester was the place to be at that time. It was really buzzing.”

The 200th anniversary of Murray’s mayoralty, combined with the 250th anniversary of the commissioning of HMS Victory on which Murray served, provided the perfect spur to bring Murray back to Chichester’s attention.

“Murray missed Trafalgar because his father-in-law died, and Murray was an executor in the will. But he had a very distinguished career. The thing about Nelson’s navy was that it was a meritocracy. You didn’t get there because of who you were. You got there because of your talents. One of the reasons we won at Trafalgar was because the fleet was in such a good way because of Murray’s work. He was also always very concerned about the men. He redesigned the uniform because he noticed the tunic top was short and there was a gap between it and the tops of their trousers. The men were always catching colds. Murray made the tunic top lower to make the gap disappear.”

For this and plenty of other reasons Richard was keen that Chichester should mark him: “Here was a Chichester man, born in Chichester and died in Chichester, a very brave man who was one of Chichester’s heroes.

“Murray was 18 and on HMS Bristol and there was a battle in the Caribbean. It was a frightful engagement. Everyone on the poop deck was killed except for Murray. He remained at his post while all this was going on. Imagine that at the age of just 18...”

The film includes some re-enactment and also includes some scenes shot on board HMS Victory, featuring Philip Robinson as Sir George and 12-year-old Ollie Martin as a young George at the age he joined the navy as a midshipman.

The film comes as part of an intended programme of events which will include exhibitions in the summer and also a model-ship re-enactment of the Battle of Trafalgar on Chichester Canal, probably at the beginning of August.

Richard is delighted with film which sets the ball rolling – a film which cost a mere £365 to produce: £300 to film on the Victory and £65 for the costumes.

The DVD and the reissued My Dear Murray biography are available from the City Council offices in North Street; the book is available from Kim’s bookshop in South Street.