Obituary for George Iain Murray
George Iain Murray, 10th Duke of Atholl was one of Scotland's richest landowners, chief of the ancient Murray clan.
from the New York Times, Spring, 1996
George Iain Murray, the 10th Duke of Atholl, known variously as one of Scotland's richest landowners, the chief of the ancient Murray clan, the commander of Britain's only private army and one of the nation's most eligible bachelors, died Tuesday at a hospital in Perth, Scotland.
He was 64 and had suffered a stroke in December at Blair Castle, the family seat in the Perthshire highlands since 1269.
The death of the 6-foot-5-inch duke known affectionately as Wee Iain came a day after it was announced that he had placed the 120-room castle and much of the surrounding estate's 140,000 acres into a charitable trust, a step that will save millions in inheritance taxes and guarantee that the historic property will remain under Scottish control.
Although the move followed reports that the duke had misgivings about his dynastic heir, John Murray, a third cousin who lives in South Africa, the estate issued a statement denying any family friction.
Under his stewardship, the estate became one of Britain's most popular tourist attractions, drawing some 165,000 paying visitors a year.
To help bolster its appeal the duke had even reactivated the long-dormant Atholl Highlanders, an 80-man private army that the Dukes of Atholl have been authorized to maintain since 1845.
Although the duke drew the line at greeting the castle's visitors personally, he appeared in full, highly photogenic kilted regalia during his army's annual parades. During the grouse season he was even more photogenic, the very picture of an archetypal country nobleman, complete with tweed jacket and Fair Isle sweater, a 12-guage side-by-side Purdey shotgun under his arm and a black Labrador at his heels.
The duke, whose title dates from 1703 when Queen Anne elevated the second Marquess of Atholl to duke, as been listed as one of Britain's 200 richest people, with an estimated wealth of more than $200 million, but the duke had scoffed at such reports, declaring himself land poor.
For all that, he was a successful businessman who served as chairman of the Westminster regional newspaper group until his retirement in 1963.
At the time he was plucked from obscurity at the age of 32 to succeed his distant cousin as duke, he was a low-paid junior executive, a circumstance that prompted the London press to portray him as the hero of a rags to riches story, one that was not quite borne out by the facts.
Reared in quite comfortable circumstances, the duke, whose father was killed in action in World War II and whose wealthy maternal grandmother had rescued the dukedom from bankruptcy in the 1930s, was educated at Eton and Oxford before entering business.
As one of Britain's wealthiest citizens, the duke, whose family motto is "Furth, Fortune and Fill the Fetters," came in for his share of ridicule, especially a few years ago when he raised the fee for use of his estate's rutted road from about $2 to $7.50, an increase his estate managers insisted did not even cover routine maintenance of the roadway.
As duke, he took his duties seriously, serving, among other things, as president of the National Trust for Scotland and captain of the House of Lords bridge team.
One duty he did not pursue was producing an heir, although as a man perennially listed as Britain's most eligible bachelor he had plenty of opportunities to marry, some even more subtle than a public appeal in 1992 from Lindi St. Clair, also know as Miss Whiplash and the self-styled founder of the Corrective Party, who offered her services as "a concubine or wife within a marriage of convenience" to keep his line going.
The commander of Britain's most photographed private army, who knew a publicity stunt when he saw one, did not respond.