Jack Murray (racing driver)

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John Eric Murray (28 August 1907 – 11 December 1983), generally known as Jack Murray or "Gelignite Jack", was an Australian racing driver remembered for his participation in Round Australia Trials.

History[edit]

Murray was born in Port Melbourne, Victoria, to Walter James Murray and his wife Alice Maud Murray née Carse.[1]

He was educated at Albert Park School, leaving at age 14 to work in a bicycle shop, he soon was involved in motor racing activities, and in 1932 moved to Sydney, where he worked for a company building Chrysler cars.[1] By 1933 Jack and his brother Ray had a garage and service station "Auto Service Ltd." or "Murray Bros.", at the corner of Roscoe and Gould streets, Bondi, which they ran until 1936 or later.

At the outset of World War II he joined the 2nd AIF, serving in the commandos,[2] and was a barge master at the landing on Leyte in October 1944.[2]

After the war Jack and Ray re-formed their business at 92 Curlewis Street, Bondi, which they operated from 1945 to 1948 or later.

Motor racing[edit]

Murray set the Mount Victoria hillclimbing record in a Terraplane.[2]

Mount Panorama events

He was a competitor at the 1946 NSW Grand Prix in a Bugatti/Ford special previously owned by Ron McKellar,[2] he was fastest overall and second-fastest on the "flying quarter" section, but fifth in the (handicapped) race.[3] He declined the prize cheque, as he had his eyes set on the wrestling event of the 1948 Olympic Games, and did not want to lose his amateur status.[4]

He competed in the 1947 Australian Grand Prix in a Bugatti Type 39 / Ford 3.6L, but was forced to retire.

He competed in the 1948 NSW Hundred at Mount Panorama in a "Day Special" in 1948,[5] in 1949 in an Edelbrock race car.[6] and 1950 in a Bugatti-Ford.[7] He raced the "Day Special" again in the 1949 All Powers Long Handicap but did not finish, but fared better in the 1950 New South Wales 100, when he placed fourth.

In March 1951 he competed in the Redex Bathurst 100 in an Allard J2 / Cadillac 4.4L, which he drove again in the Redex 50 Mile Championship in October 1951, but was forced to retire.[8] He drove the Allard/Cadillac in the 1952 Australian Grand Prix, and came fourth, and the Bugatti/Ford in the 1954 Bathurst 100, when he came seventh.

1953 Redex 1,000 Mile Trial

This 24-hour event was staged over 2 and 3 May, starting and ending in Sydney and ran through the Blue Mountains and the back roads behind the Jenolan Caves, it had been made the "hardest ever" by torrential rain; Murray came second, one of only nine to complete the course.[9]

1953 Redex Reliability Trial

Jack Murray and Bill Murray (no relation) failed to finish, their Chrysler Plymouth having rolled between Cloncurry and Mount Isa.[10] When interviewed by a news team shortly after the crash, every second word of Murray's response had to be expurgated, a source of delight to many.[11]

1954 Redex 1,000 Mile Trial

Murray won this little-noticed 24-hour event, run entirely within New South Wales,[12] followed by another, sponsored by Kriesler,[13] an Australian manufacturer of car radios and other consumer electronics.

1954 Redex Reliability Trial

Murray and his navigator, the unrelated Bill Murray won this Trial in a 1948 Ford V-8 with registration plates JM456, an ex-taxi dubbed the "Grey Ghost", losing no points on the trip, it was on this trial that Murray gained his nickname, from his occasional celebratory detonation of sticks of gelignite.[14] "They christened me "Gelignite Jack" after the big bang in the tin outhouse at Townsville Showground," he is quoted as saying.[15] "Gelignite wouldn’t hurt a flea out in the open. It's just the same as a cracker, only louder."[1] Despite his "larrikin" image, Murray was a total professional when it counted, a non-smoker and teetotaler who never took foolhardy risks, the Murrays, who lost no points on the entire route, were popular winners, and mobbed at the finish line.[16]

1955 Redex Reliability Trial

The last leg, from Canberra to Sydney, included a section near Murrumbateman where contestants were required to negotiate a boggy paddock,[17] and Murray was one who fared badly, and thinking he was out of contention, did not checking in for vehicle scrutiny at the finish line, and was thereby disqualified. Following adverse criticism, some deriding the section as a game of chance rather than a test of skill, results for that section were disregarded. Murray did not attend the Ball, at which the winners should have been announced but were not, due to unresolved protests.[18] There was no 1956 Redex Trial.

1956 Ampol Trial

Murray and his brother Ray Murray were put out of contention when one of the "Grey Ghost"'s stub axle and its king pin broke, but he was able to get back on the road with a loss of only 70 points thanks to fellow-competitor Robert Whan, who allowed Murray to cannibalize his own car, which had crashed into a tree.[19] He lost 69 further points when he took a wrong turn after Mt Isa, and ended up at the Mary Kathleen uranium fields.[20]

1957 Ampol Trial

Murray and Neville Vale were forced to pull out shortly after leaving Birdsville when their Fiat 1100 ("Little Ghost") broke an axle.[21] Not to be confused with another competitor John Mornder Murray of Ashgrove, Queensland, who with his daughter Kerry was also in a Fiat.[22]

1957 Mobilgas Trial

In this event Murray drove a Chrysler Royal[23]

1958 Ampol Trial

Murray, again in a Fiat, lost points when he got lost on the dirt road between Ballarat and Renmark.

Armstrong 500

Murray drove a Morris Major Elite in the 1963 Armstrong 500 and a Ford Cortina Mk.I GT500 in the 1965 Armstrong 500

Gallaher 500

Murray drove a Prince Skyline 1500 in the 1966 Gallaher 500 and the 1967 Gallaher 500 production car races.

1968 London to Sydney Marathon

He took part in this event with Evan Green and George Shepheard as the BMC works team in an Austin 1800.[15] arriving in 21st place. Another J. Murray (Jack "Milko" Murray) and Bert Madden came 54th in an HK Holden Monaro, sponsored by Maitland Motors.[24]

1970 World Cup Rally

He participated in this event, which ran from London to Mexico City,[1] but did not finish.

1977 London to Sydney Marathon

He took part in this event in a Peugeot 504TI with Bruce Mudd and Geoff Perry, but did not finish.

1979 Repco trial

Murray and his son in a Holden Commodore, with numberplates JM456 from the old "Grey Ghost", finished 23rd, after the event he was hospitalised with blood circulation problems, and had his right leg amputated below the knee.[15]

Family[edit]

Jack Murray married Ena May Byrne on 3 July 1942 at the (Anglican) Church of St Jude, Randwick;[1] they had a home at Derby Street, Vaucluse, later moved to Hawkesbury, New South Wales. They had two sons; the elder, John, was born around 1944.[25]

Raymond Godfrey Murray (21 July 1905 – c. 28 August 1976), of Myuna Road, Dover Heights, New South Wales was a brother.

Jack Murray was admitted to St Vincent's Hospital in October 1983 with a cardiovascular disease and died ten weeks later.[15]

Other interests[edit]

As a younger man, Murray was a champion amateur wrestler[26] (amateur heavyweight champion of Australia?)[27] and lifesaver on Bondi Beach.[2]

Murray was an expert water-skier, once frequently seen practising on the Hawkesbury River.

Recognition[edit]

He was the subject of a book Journeys with Gelignite Jack, Angus & Robertson (1967), by his life-long friend, eminent motor racer and motoring journalist Evan Green about an outback journey they undertook for the Ampol company.[28] A new edition, Hit the Road, Jack, was published in 1991 by Pan Macmillan

In April 1984 a monument bearing his name was erected at Shoal Bay, New South Wales, where he holidayed regularly.[11]

He was brought in as a major character in Dust and Glory, a 1990 novel by Evan Green, the action of the novel takes place in the fictitious 1956 Redex Trial (the last Redex Reliability Trial was in 1955) and several real-life characters appear apart from Murray, notably the radio star Jack Davey, who in the book wants to be taken seriously as a rally driver not for his celebrity value.[29]

He was in 2016 an inaugural entry to the Australian Motor Sport Hall of Fame.

The private real estate development "Murray's Rise" near Branxton, Belford and Pokolbin was named for him.[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Andrew Moore, 'Murray, John Eric (Jack) (1907–1983)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/murray-john-eric-jack-15098/text26297, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 5 June 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Car Drivers Flying For Grand Prix". The Sun (Sydney) (11,447). New South Wales, Australia. 1 October 1946. p. 13. Retrieved 9 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  3. ^ "Motor Grand Prix". National Advocate. New South Wales, Australia. 8 October 1946. p. 1. Retrieved 10 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  4. ^ "Race Driver Refuses Prize Money". The Newcastle Sun (8979). New South Wales, Australia. 9 October 1946. p. 4. Retrieved 10 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  5. ^ "Car Blue Riband". National Advocate. New South Wales, Australia. 30 March 1948. p. 1. Retrieved 10 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  6. ^ "Round the Bends at 60 m.p.h". The Sydney Morning Herald (34,734). New South Wales, Australia. 19 April 1949. p. 5. Retrieved 10 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  7. ^ "N.S.W. Grand Prix". National Advocate. New South Wales, Australia. 11 April 1950. p. 1. Retrieved 10 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  8. ^ "Three Wins to Whiteford". National Advocate. New South Wales, Australia. 2 October 1951. p. 3. Retrieved 10 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  9. ^ "Downpour Makes Car Rally "The Toughest Ever"". The Recorder (Port Pirie) (14,051). South Australia. 11 May 1953. p. 1. Retrieved 4 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  10. ^ "15 Fast Cars Beat Trial Schedule in Record Run". The Sun (Sydney) (13,594). New South Wales, Australia. 4 September 1953. p. 1. Retrieved 9 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  11. ^ a b ""Gelignite" Jack Murray". Monument Australia. Retrieved 8 June 2017. 
  12. ^ "Bondi Garage Man Shines In Big Trial". The West Australian. 70, (21,118). Western Australia. 29 March 1954. p. 14. Retrieved 5 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  13. ^ "He owns the "Grey Ghost"". The Sun (Sydney) (13849). New South Wales, Australia. 2 July 1954. p. 18. Retrieved 9 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  14. ^ "Across the Nullarbor — now in South Australia". Sunday Mail (Adelaide). Queensland, Australia. 18 July 1954. p. 1. Retrieved 5 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  15. ^ a b c d "'Gelignite' Jack Murray dies at 76". The Canberra Times. 58, (17,607). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 13 December 1983. p. 7. Retrieved 9 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  16. ^ "The Round Australias". Club VeeDub. Retrieved 10 June 2017. 
  17. ^ "Late Penalties Beat Reliability Trial Leaders". The Canberra Times. 30, (8,639). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 12 September 1955. p. 1. Retrieved 5 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  18. ^ "Jack Murray Could Have Won Redex Trial by Final Check-in". The Central Queensland Herald. 22, (1936). Queensland, Australia. 22 September 1955. p. 13. Retrieved 5 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  19. ^ "2,000 Shiver To See Trial Cars". The Canberra Times. 30, (8,911). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 16 July 1956. p. 1. Retrieved 9 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  20. ^ "Ampol Cars Bog In Black Mud". The Canberra Times. 30, (8,918). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 24 July 1956. p. 1. Retrieved 9 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  21. ^ "Seven Trial Cars Overdue Into Mt. Isa". The Canberra Times. 31, (9,220). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 13 July 1957. p. 3. Retrieved 9 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  22. ^ "Warrant For Arrest Of Trial Driver". The Canberra Times. 31, (9,219). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 12 July 1957. p. 3. Retrieved 9 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  23. ^ a b "Murray's Rise". Retrieved 10 June 2017.  This website contains several errors.
  24. ^ "WRC results: Daily Express London-Sydney Marathon 1968". Retrieved 10 June 2017. 
  25. ^ "The Murray boys 'laze' home". The Argus (Melbourne). Victoria, Australia. 21 July 1954. p. 1. Retrieved 9 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  26. ^ "Wrestler in Grand Prix". The Sydney Morning Herald (33,939). New South Wales, Australia. 2 October 1946. p. 8. Retrieved 10 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  27. ^ "Monday on Mount Panorama". National Advocate. New South Wales, Australia. 5 October 1946. p. 3. Retrieved 10 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  28. ^ "Weekend Motoring: Rattling good yarn about rough roads". The Canberra Times. 66, (20,614). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 20 September 1991. p. 21. Retrieved 9 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  29. ^ "Weekend Motoring: A novel view of the Redex saga". The Canberra Times. 65, (20,265). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 5 October 1990. p. 20. Retrieved 9 June 2017 – via National Library of Australia.