Public support is being sought for plans to commemorate a “true Chichester hero” in the city of his birth.
Admiral Sir George Murray was a close friend and confidant of Admiral Nelson and the man about whom Nelson famously said that he wanted “Murray or none.”
The plan is to place a full-size sculpture of the two of them together on a plinth in front of Jack Wills at 40 North Street which was at one time the home of Murray’s brother Richard. It will be close to the Ship Hotel which Murray built as his home. Richard Plowman and the city’s Murray Club are unveiling a maquette or model of the sculpture at Chichester’s Oxmarket Gallery next week. From Tuesday, March 13, the model will be available to view at the gallery, alongside information about the project and invitations to pledge support.
“Sir George Murray was born in Chichester and died in Chichester and was captain of the fleet at the time of Nelson who was Murray’s very close friend. But the reason people don’t know Murray very well is that at the time of the Battle of Trafalgar he was here in the UK dealing with his father-in-law’s will. But for that, he would almost certainly have been standing next to Nelson at Trafalgar when Nelson was shot, and Nelson would have said ‘Kiss me, Murray’ rather than ‘Kiss me, Hardy!’ Murray went on to do great things for Chichester. He was mayor in 1815 and did a lot for the city. He was on the pavement commission which made sure that the streets were properly paved and drained, and he was a trustee of St John’s Chapel and gave a sizeable donation to that.”
He really was a remarkable man: “Usually when you start to work on somebody, you find out things that you would rather not know! But the great thing with Murray is that the more you look into him, the more you admire him. All the eulogies when he died were that he was a gentleman, very trustworthy and brave.”
The idea to commemorate him grew out of celebrations in 2015 for the bicentenary of his time as mayor of Chichester. Working on the piece is Vincent Gray, the behind man the Keats sculpture in Eastgate Square.
“But this one is unusual in that it will have two people relating to each other. What is important is to show the friendship between Nelson and Murray. Nobody would have known who Murray was, but everyone will know who Nelson was. A lot of the preparatory work for Trafalgar would have been done by Murray. He would have been the one making sure that the ships were all in fine fettle and that the fighting men were all there. He brought the fleet up to scratch for Nelson.
“In the sculpture, he is the man behind Nelson – and he is pointing. The idea is that he is pointing towards Copenhagen. The Battle of Copenhagen was the most important battle for Murray and established his friendship with Nelson. Murray had surveyed around Copenhagen which is a desperate place for ships because of all the sand banks. Murray led the attack on Copenhagen, which was one of those battles that could have gone either way. Nelson was grateful to Murray that they came out of it in a reasonable way, and that was the start of the great friendship between the two.”
All the agreements are all in place, including planning permission. Now begins the task of funding it. The estimated cost is £90,000. The idea is to put up a resin sculpture in a year or so and then replace it more permanently in bronze.