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WG Hunter Murray

Obit pic of WG Hunter Murray.

Obit pic of WG Hunter Murray.

Hunter Murray came to the Borders when his father, Major Murray, was appointed factor to the Duke of Roxburghe towards the end of the Second World War.

The family initially lived at Windywalls, before moving to Otterburn, a small farm near Morebattle which the duke had bought from the Pearson family.

Hunter spent his school days at Bellhaven and Sedbergh, where he was acknowledged as the best rugby tackler in the school – shades of things to come!

Things did come when, based in Germany for his national service, he teamed up in a lifelong friendship with David Chisholm, in helping win the British Army Cup for the Royal Scots.

National service behind him and after a brief flirtation with the thought of becoming an auctioneer he settled down to farm at Otterburn. Pigs were what he chose as his then priority and for a couple of years he disappeared in work, except for rugby at Kelso.

Farming changed dramatically for Hunter when his father retired and moved to Caverton Hillhead, where the tenancy was vacant. Sadly, his father’s retirement was only for a month or two before his death, which left Hunter with a sizeable farm and a family to support.

“Cometh the day, cometh the man” could not sum up better what Hunter, with very little experience, was about to achieve. One of the most glittering farm careers of the past 50 years was under way. Potatoes took over, and rugby only started seriously after Christmas.

Hunter had the most uncanny gift of being able to put a value on a sheep and never to get carried away in the auction ring.

The same was true much later in life with his love of antiques and paintings. It was, however, sheer hard work that eventually allowed him to enjoy his artistic side of life. In the meantime, it was hard graft riddling tatties well into the night with the Morebattle squad after a normal day’s work. This period probably cost him a Scottish rugby cap to add to his Kelso and South of Scotland honours.

Something was still missing in his life and his friends had no success in getting him diverted into taking any interest in young ladies. Fortunately, one of his sisters came to the rescue, introducing a nursing friend, Patricia, who turned out to be his soulmate for life.

Family from then became his absolute priority, but was certainly not straightforward, with the tragic loss of his first daughter. Two other lovely daughters, Hilary and Joanna, four grandchildren and son Robert, now farming Caverton Hillhead, have been a constant joy to him and Patricia.

He somehow found time also in the early days to trout fish and to catch a salmon or two on the Tweed.

On retirement from rugby, Saturday winter afternoons were spent with three or four friends on a rough shoot and a lot of chat and leg- pull in the Bowmont Valley.

The priority of family life was not straightforward, however, as son Robert’s kidneys began to deteriorate, which eventually led to a three-times-a-week long haul over Soutra in all weathers for dialysis treatment.

At that time. dialysis machines were in very short supply. so Hunter set out in his indomitable way to fix the problem.

He completed a sponsored walk from John O’Groats to the English border, which raised enough to install three of the latest dialysis machines at the Western General. Hunter eventually persuaded Robert to accept one of his kidneys, which was a perfect match. Hunter’s comment at the time was: “I only need one.”

Hunter and Robert continued their support and Hunter with Lilian Rutherford and others formed the Border Kidney Patient Trust to provide dialysis locally at the Borders General. This led to the hugely successful NHS fully-funded kidney dialysis ward that we have in the Borders today.

Hunter’s lasting contribution to farming in general is immense. Nowadays buying groups, machinery sharing and co-operative ventures are taken for granted, but this was not the case in the 1970s and 1980s. Hunter and Robert Dick invited six, soon to be eight, young farmers to form the co-operative venture of Glenteviot Farmers, a set-up which caused quite a stir at the time.

Large commercial co-operative sales companies such as West Cumberland Farmers were part of the farming scene, but the idea of small farmers co-operating on joint machinery ownership at that time was almost unheard of.

Hunter took a leading role, buying the first two group combines from his old friend David Chisholm at Kelso Tractors. Local farming commodity suppliers soon found themselves having the chance to quote for most farm commodities used by the group.

Group grain storage followed and farm management in various forms as joint ventures backed by the group structure. The farming world is still catching up with Hunters’ group thinking of 40 years ago.

Hunter was simply one of the best and most enlightened farmers of his generation.

DW

 

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