Helen Murray (1868 – 1959)

On 22 June 1946, a painting entitled Nurse and Child (2557) in oils by R. C. Crawford was presented by Miss Murray of 15 Belhaven Terrace, Glasgow. 1

Figure 1. Crawford, Robert Cree; Woman and Child; © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (http://www.artuk.org)

On ArtUK the painting is entitled Woman and Child by Robert Cree Crawford and is dated to about 1895 – 97.

The initial problems with researching this donor were that she was listed simply as ‘Miss Murray’ with no first name or initial given. Also, she could not be located at the address given in the Glasgow Post Office Directories spanning the years 1944 to 1949.

However, in March 2014, a distant relative of the artist visited the Glasgow Museums Resource Centre (GMRC) to view the painting. She was able to identify the child in the painting as Helen, youngest daughter of the artist Robert Cree Crawford. 2 It then seemed possible that ‘Miss Murray’ might be the woman in the picture – the child`s nurse/governess. On checking the 1891 Census 3 there was listed at 46 St. James Street, Hillhead, along with the Crawford family, an ‘Ellen Murray’ who was single, aged 23 and employed by the family as a nurse. She had been born in England. There was no Helen Crawford but there were six children under the age of eleven, one of whom was deaf, so it would have been appropriate to employ a governess.

By 1901, the family had moved to 12 Derby Crescent, Kelvinside and in the census of that year 4 there appears, ‘Helen Murray, governess, single, aged 31’ in the Crawford household. There is also a Helen C(harlotte) Crawford, daughter of Robert and born in 1892.

        So, assuming the child in the painting is Helen Charlotte aged about five, the painting must have been completed about 1897 when Helen Murray would have been about 28 and a ‘governess’.

            By the time the picture was painted Helen would have been with the family for ten years. Perhaps it was a birthday/anniversary present? In his will, Robert Cree Crawford left everything to his wife but there is no mention of this painting. 5 It is also a possibility that Helen Charlotte was named after a favourite nurse/governess as there seemed to be no other ‘Helens’ in the family. If this is so it shows that Helen Murray was held in high regard by the family.

Helen Murray was christened on 11 March 1868 in Everton, Liverpool. 6  Her father, David Murray was a joiner from Canonbie in Dumfries who had married Mary Beattie in Canonbie on 29 August 1862. 7 The couple and their eldest daughter, Jane moved to Liverpool around 1865 and lived there for about the next ten years. In the 1871 census 8 they were at Toxteth Park, Liverpool, and ‘Ellen’, aged 3, now had a brother Robert. By 1881 they had moved back to Scotland to Carrutherstown Village, Dalton, Dumfries. 9 Helen was now thirteen and a ‘scholar’. She had, in addition to Jane and Robert, two younger siblings, George and Mary. Ten years later, Helen, aged 23, was employed by Robert Cree Crawford as a ‘domestic servant, nurse’ and was living with the Crawford family at 46 St. James Street, Hillhead. 10 The donated painting was completed about 1897. By 1901 the family had moved to 12 Derby Crescent, Kelvinside and in the census of that year Helen`s occupation is ‘governess’, aged 31. 11

Robert Cree Crawford married his first cousin, Sophia Jean Cree. His ‘in-laws’ (or uncle and aunt) lived at ‘Woodneuk’, Rahane near Garelochhead. His father-in-law (uncle) died in 1894 and his mother-in-law (aunt) in 1903. 12 Sometime after this the Crawford family moved to Rahane, and Helen went with them. In the census of 1911 for ‘Woodneuk’ she is described as a ‘lady help’ aged 42.13 However, the family must have kept the house at 12 Derby Crescent as this was described as his usual address when Robert Cree Crawford died in 1924.

Sophia Jean Crawford died intestate in 1929 at ‘Woodneuk’ leaving £3123, 5s 5p. Her two daughters Sophia Cree Crawford and Helen Charlotte Crawford were granted confirmation, and both gave their address as Woodneuk, Rahane. 14, 15 The following year Helen Murray was in residence at 15 Belhaven Terrace, Glasgow 16. She was now 62 and had been employed by the Crawford family for over 40 years. She presented the painting to Glasgow in 1946 when she was 78.

Helen Murray died at 2 Lorraine Road, Glasgow – a nursing home – on 8 March 1959. She was 91. Her usual address was still 15 Belhaven Terrace. 17

MURRAY – At a nursing home, Glasgow on 8th March, 1959, Helen Murray, 15,

Belhaven Terrace, Glasgow, W2 – Funeral tomorrow (Wednesday) at 12.10 p.m. from Messrs Wylie & Lochhead, Ltd., 31, Bath Street to Glasgow crematorium, Maryhill arriving at 12.30 p.m.; friends desirous of attending phone …..; no flowers or letters please. 18

Helen Charlotte Crawford died, unmarried, in 1979 at Callender. She was 87.19

References

  1. Catalogue of Donations to Glasgow, Glasgow Museums Resource Centre (GMRC)
  2. Information in the Object File at GMRC
  3. Scotland`s People, Census 1891
  4. Scotland’s people, Census 1901
  5. Scotland`s People, Wills and Testaments, Robert Cree Crawford,
  6. Births and Christening Records, Old Parish Registers, Family Search, England
  7. Scotland’s People, Marriage Certificate
  8. Ancestry.co.uk, Census, England, 1871
  9. Scotland’s People, Census, 1881
  10. Scotland’s People, Census, 1891
  11. Scotland’s People, Census, 1901
  12. Scotland’s People, Death Certificates
  13. Scotland’s People, Census, 1911
  14. Scotland`s People, Death Certificate
  15. Confirmations and Inventories, Mitchell Library, Glasgow
  16. Scotland’s People, Valuation Roll, 1930
  17. Scotland’s People, Death Certificate
  18. Glasgow Herald, Death Notices, 10 March 1959
  19. Scotland’s People, Death Certificate

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