View Full Version : Highlander in Corfu

23-07-2015, 5:47 PM
I am looking for records on James Murray, per family history a sergeant with the Seaforth Highlanders, who travelled to Corfu with his wife and died there. I don't have date of birth or place of birth, although he was married in 1853 in Ardesier, Inverness. He is mentioned in one letter as having died from scarlet fever, and in another letter as having been found floating in the bay with his throat cut. I can find no sergeant listed who died in 1854 (he is supposed to have never seen his son, James Murray, who was born in Corfu in Nov 1864). Was there actual fighting in Corfu or would this be a non-combat death either way? Also, would there be records of the wife if any money was paid her on his death?
Thanks for any help!

23-07-2015, 10:34 PM
Are your dates correct? James MURRAY died 1854 without seeing his son born 1864?

I cannot dee a birth or death records on the GRO Indices for British Army or National born/died overseas

Too many James MURRAY army records both FMP

I am not very good with National Archives but did find this listing


23-07-2015, 10:42 PM
Thank you , will look at the listing. 1864 is a typo, sorry, James Murray the son was born in Corfu in Nov 1854.

Peter Goodey
24-07-2015, 7:22 AM
I stand to be corrected about Scottish regiments but my information is that the Seaforth Highlanders were not formed until 1881 (from the 72nd and 78th) so I have trouble following the question. What's the source?

Where and where was James Murray born?

24-07-2015, 8:00 AM
This site (http://auctions.lyonandturnbull.com/auction-lot-detail/Seaforth-Highlanders-A-large-archive-relating-to-the-Seafort/208++++++209+/+++96385) seems to indicate the existence of the Seaforth Highlanders prior to 1881

As does the now closed auction of the painting below

William Gawin Herdman (British, 1805–1882)
Title: A view of Edinburgh with citizens and soldiers of the Seaforth Highlanders, 1854–1854

The National Archives http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/results/r?_q=WO%2044%2F72&_rv=default
gives some more information but I am now getting confused. :smile5:

Peter Goodey
24-07-2015, 8:32 AM
The note on that page bears out my understanding. If you were writing a history of the Seaforth Highlanders you would obviously include the 72nd and 78th regiments. My point is - would contemporary records of 1854 or thereabouts show "Seaforth Highlanders"? I think not.

Lesley Robertson
24-07-2015, 9:10 AM
According to the website of their Association's Nottingham Branch HERE (http://www.seaforthhighlandersnottsbranch.co.uk/page_1542511.html), the regiment traces its history back to the raising of the 78th Highland Regiment in 1778, but they didn't take on the name "Seaforth Highlanders until 1881. They were also known as the Ross-shire Buffs and the Duke of Albany's.
Sadly the table doesn't show where they were in the 1850s when they would have been known as 72nd (Duke of Albany's Own Highlanders).

I wonder whether an archivist somewhere is taking shortcuts and putting all files under their most recent name.

Lesley Robertson
24-07-2015, 9:26 AM
PS According to the 72nd's page on Wikipedia, they were in Ireland in 1854, Malta in 1855 , they then headed for the Crimea in the same year.
The Regiments did take a limited number of wives with them, usually to do the laundry, cook and to other "female tasks". However, I've never checked to see whether this was also true when the Regiment headed for a war zone - the laundry would still need to be done, of course. Or what happened to such overseas families if they couldn't go on the next journey.
Most of what I know comes from going through pay slips - part of the pay of married soldiers was paid to whoever was registered as their wife, and the children also had to be listed. It might be worth looking for the 72nd's pay records - I found the Border Regimental records (just the original payslips recording wives & kids) in the National Archives of Scotland, now National Records of Scotland. Their catalogue is HERE (http://nationalrecordsofscotland.gov.uk/research/catalogues-and-indexes).

Peter Goodey
24-07-2015, 9:29 AM
I found some more in the "Regiments" archive. It suggests that Seaforth Highland Regiment was the original name of the 72nd which was then dropped and later reinstated.

The web site doesn't put either the 72nd or the 78th in Corfu in 1854 -


1853 Nova Scotia: Halifax
1854. at sea
1854.10.12 Ireland
1854.12.14 at sea
1855.01 Malta


1842 India: Sciude
1857.01 Persia

Lesley Robertson
24-07-2015, 9:32 AM
Is this the James Murray who married Grace Fraser on 4 April 1853 in Ardersier, Inverness? It helps if people provide useful info such as spouse, sibling or children's names, where known, especially if there's a common name involved.

Have you looked at the original entry in the Church register, or just the transcription? The original should confirm his rank and regiment, but you'll need to go to Scotland's People for that. See the General Scottish forum for info on SP.

There is an 1861 census entry for Grace Murray, b abt 1836 in Tomintoul, Banf, resident in Ardersier, Inverness, dressmaker and Head of Household. Her son James's birth is given as abt 1855, Corfu, Ionian islands.

24-07-2015, 9:53 AM
Forgive me saying I was delighted to note your confusion - but it meant I was no longer alone!

Did spot this 1858 newspaper reference
Raised ... in 1778. In 1786 it was numbered 72d ... In 1823 it was styled the Duke of Albany's Highlanders, when it resumed the plaid and bonnet.
The present 78th Highlanders ... was raised by letter of service, dated 7 March 1793"

This has brought back fond memories of my old boss who was in Signals and used to recite, as a party piece,
Ay for Horses,
Beef or Mutton
C Forth Highlanders
... and so on

Lesley Robertson
24-07-2015, 11:01 AM
Morning Post, 3 Jan 1854 (and many other papers). Stations of the British Army

In Corfu were battalions from:
1st Foot, 31st Foot, 48th Foot, 57th Foot, 71st Foot plus the 1st West India, Ceylon Rifle Regt, St Helen Regt.
There must have been a reasonably sized base(s). There's frequent mention of the Greek Insurrection...

The 72nd were in Nova Scotia (depot in Limerick)
The 78th were in Bengal, depot in Chatham.

These lists seem to have been published each month. By Feb, the 72nd was still in Nova Scotia, the 78th was in Aden.
25th Feb. New Brunswick & Poonah, respectively. Also 23rd March, 5 April, 30 Apr, 27 May, 5 Jul, 5 Aug, 2 Sept, 7 Oct, 26 Oct.
It looks as though, whatever he was doing in Corfu, it wasn't with the 72nd or 78th. The papers frequently mention collecting men from one regiment to serve elsewhere with another (sounds like WW1), but it's very odd. If his wife went with, it can't have been one of these instant moves.

24-07-2015, 1:52 PM
Thanks, Lesley, those are the correct matches for the wedding with Grace Fraser and the 1861 census. I did get the original entry for the marriage from Scotland's People, and it only says "both from the parish of Ardesier" - so likely James Murray was also from there but I have been unable to uncover a DOB. I suppose he could be any age at marriage, so hard to even guess.
Does the fact there was no rank listed means he was not yet enlisted?
Although if he were not a sergeant in April 1853, it seems unlikely he would be one in 1854? This would require enlisting and then promotion, correct?

As I mentioned, much of the details of his life and death are from family memoirs and letters I have been going through so of questionable validity. It seems reasonable that a regiment that came to be called the "Seaforth highlanders" would be referred to as such by a descendant incorrectly- thanks for the correction.

I do know for a fact that my great-great-grandfather James Murray (the son) was born in Corfu in Nov 1854, and it is from his memoirs that the story of his father's have been found "floating in the bay at Corfu with his throat cut" comes. The story of scarlet fever comes from a letter written by James Murray Jr.'s wife, Elizabeth Kirtland. Either method of death seems to be possibly a non-combat death, which would explain not finding a good match in some lists.
The story was that his new wife accompanied him to war "as was the custom for sergeants in those days." At any rate, the story was interesting enough to have been repeated through the generations. Unfortunately James Murray is such a common name that I am having difficulties confirming any details!
Thanks again for interesting discussion.

24-07-2015, 1:55 PM
Assuming the Seaforth highlanders to be a mistake, how would one go about finding if there actually were a regiment in Corfu in 1854?
- apologize, edited to thank Lesley for including that info above! very helpful.
Question: Would a person from Ardesier have enlisted at Fort George necessarily, and would the battalion joined be most likely defined by hometown?

24-07-2015, 4:53 PM
Re. the " ... regiment that came to be called the Seaforth Highlanders to be a mistake ..."

Feb 1782
"DEATH - Right Hon Kenneth Mackenzie, Earl of Seaforth, Colonel of the 78th Regt of Highlanders ...".

The "authorities" may have allocated a new number, 72D, in 1786 but for those in the Regiment, and their successors (traditions die hard), it remained "Seaforth's" regiment?

25-07-2015, 7:58 AM
Regiments in Corfu 1854

Cannot find the 72nd in Corfu in '54 but

Apr 16 1854 - the depot of the 71st Highlanders at Chatham received orders on the 19th ult. to hold themselves in readiness for foreign service, and will join the headquarters of the 1st Battalion at Corfu

Nov 19 1854 Reinforcements for the Army in the Crimea
The 34th Regiment now at Corfu
The 71st Highlander Light Infantry from Corfu

Volunteers (140) from the 72nd depot in Ireland transferred to the 42d or 79th in 1854 - but cannot see the 42d or 79th in Corfu.

Lesley Robertson
25-07-2015, 8:30 AM
What went into entries in Church of Scotland registers was very much at the whim of the Minister or Parish Clerk. Most would list rank and regiment of a military groom if he was an in-comer, but as you say it sounds as though bride and groom were registered parishioners of the local Church. That doesn't mean that they were born in the parish (although there's a good possibility that they were), but that they'd registered as parishioners if/when they moved into the area.

The variability can be extreme - some Ministers included marriages & baptisms in their local non-conformist churches (everything but the Church of Scotland), others didn't. I have a marriage record where only the name of the groom is given (the bride wasn't from that parish), and a baptism record where not only the child and parents were named, but also the grandfather (because the kid was being named for him) and all their occupations. Mind you, that last Minister then blotted his copybook by spelling the family surname 3 different ways in the single entry... Spelling was also a fuzzy business.

Lesley Robertson
25-07-2015, 8:34 AM
As I said in message 12, the 72nd were in Canada and the 78th in India over that period.

There would have been admin staff and trainees at their depots, of course.

25-07-2015, 12:05 PM
Books google has this book cannot copy link for copyright reasons, that explains the raising of the regiments & mentions 72 Highlanders

The Gordon Highlanders: A Concise History
By Trevor Royle

01-08-2015, 9:34 PM
Here is a photo I was able to find from the Manchester Courier, Nov 11 1854, that mentions under "October 22 Wounded:" "James Murray, A B. London, severely."
This would be close to the time frame for my James Murray, who was supposed to have died " a fortnight" before his son was born Nov 30 1854.
Can anyone tell me if this gives me any additional information to work with - i.e., what does AB London mean? Was this the name of his ship?


Peter Goodey
02-08-2015, 5:33 AM
what does AB London mean?

Able Seaman, HMS London.

25-08-2015, 10:42 PM
Does this (AB) signify a naval man, and would this be in conflict with being a "seaforth highlander" which I presume is infantry? or are such distinctions meaningful at this time?

Lesley Robertson
26-08-2015, 10:57 AM
It's highly unlikely (never impossible) that the navy guy is the same as the other. I don't know where you are, but his name is pretty common in Scotland.

26-08-2015, 1:10 PM
Thanks, that was also my conclusion. Stumped again. Still working on parentage to get dob but no luck yet. The common name definitely does not help!

Lesley Robertson
26-08-2015, 2:44 PM
A somewhat late response to message 13 - the census shows Grace as having been born in Tomintoul, Banf, so it's likely that the Minister meant "both living her" by "both of this parish" rather than "born and bred here". Likely, they were both officially registered as his parishioners. To do this, they would have had to present a certificate of Church membership from their previous parish so, if you are very lucky and they've survived, the Minutes of the Kirk Session should show previous parishes.
Grace was already in Ardesier in 1851. James wasn't there in '41 or '51.....

27-08-2015, 4:43 PM
Sounds like a trip to Scotland might be required? Or wait until they are put online...I'm in the US but this would be a fun excuse to travel I guess!

Lesley Robertson
27-08-2015, 6:30 PM
i never avoid an excuse to head for Edinburgh. It's one of my favourite cities!