A Rosehearty hotel has a binding tie with one of Australia’s most famous families. The Cliff View Hotel stands in a peaceful setting. On the outward appearance little has changed over the years and therefore much remains to tell it was erected as a home of importance. It was in fact built as the Rosehearty UP Manse four years after the disruption in 1843. Then on August 6 1960 this lovely home was turned into a hotel.
The name of Murdoch rung a bell of friendship in Rosehearty for many long years and to this day the family link continues through Catherine King s interest in her country of origin. Dr King has always felt the magnetic pull towards Rosehearty and the old manse at the top of Pitsligo street. Her grandfather was the Rev. James Murdoch who lived in that manse for 34 years, and her father was Sir Walter Murdoch, one of Australia’s best loved and respected men.
When Sir Walter Logie Forbes Murdoch lay dying at his home in Perth, Western Australia, the government asked him if he would mind them naming the new university after him. He stated: “It had better be a good one!” The Prime Minister, on announcing the university’s name, said: “He is a distinguished scholar and a man of letters. His name gives dignity to our new university.” A few weeks later, on July30 1970, aged 96, Sir Walter died.
The authorities in Perth requested a foundation stone for Murdoch University from Rosehearty Town Council and they obliged by locating a blue stone similar to that used in the building of his father’s church. This stone has formed a link between the father’s church and his son’s university.
In the ancient cemetery of Pitsligo, just up the hill from Rosehearty, a granite plaque by the old gate bears the family name. It marks the graves of two children. Within the hallway in the church on Pitsligo Street another plaque, which once adorned Murdoch’s Kirk at the head of Loch Street, is dedicated to the memory of the Rev. James Murdoch and honours his long service to the community.
The year 1934 was to bring back many memories to the town. In that year the generation who grew up with the Rev. James Murdoch were fast disappearing, when a middle aged Australian arrived in the town and signed into the Forbes Arms.
He was Sir Walter Murdoch and he told of his homecoming on ABC radio thus: “I wandered about among the fishermen’s cottages for a while until I caught sight of a grey stone house on a hill, a house in which I was particularly interested, so interested that I boldly knocked at the door and asked to see the master of the house. This turned out to be an old gentleman retired from business and very well up on the history of the town. He was kind enough to show me over the house and noticed that I was particularly interested in an upstairs room. I thought it only courteous to explain, you see I happened to be born in that room.”
Sir Walter’s father was the Rev. James Murdoch, who was born the son of an ironmonger in Stirling on September 13, 1818. He attended Glasgow University in 1831 and arrived in Rosehearty as UP missionary in 1843. His church was built at “the heid o’ the loch” the following year and on September 19, 1844, he was ordained as minister of the “Red Kirkie” – later to be named “Murdoch’s Kirk”. His manse was built in 1847 and on September 28, 1848, he married Helen Garden of Braco Park Farm, Rosehearty.
Her favourite aunt, Eliza Garden, was born at Braco Park in 1788 and she used to tell the Murdochs and their children of the excitement and celebrations at Rosehearty following the triumphant victories of Trafalgar and Waterloo. These grand memories were to live on in Sir Walter’s mind until the last. Helen’s brother, William Garden, married Mary Gregg Hogg, a daughter of the renowned poet James Hogg, better known as the “Ettrick Shepherd”. A painting of the well known poet hung at Braco Park for many long years.
In the old home on Pitsligo Street, Helen Murdoch gave birth to fourteen children, five of them girls and nine boys. James Murdoch extended a Northern wing onto the manse, at his own expense, to accommodate his expanding family. The Murdochs were proud of this fine home and enjoyed its picturesque view across the Bay of Pitsligo towards the high cliffs of Pennan and Troup for 34 years.
Sir Walter’s father was widely read. He loved Burns, enjoying reading both English and Scottish literature, and his children were greatly encouraged to listen to his readings of it. Thought provoking debates on theology with his clerical friends lasted into the early hours and proved to be one of his favourite pastimes. James Murdoch earned much respect from these men of the Kirk who pressed him to publish one of his outstanding sermons. This very learned man, mainly self-taught, was more than once offered a professorship.
The family’s interest in journalism sprung from the early years at the old manse. Helen Murdoch, Walter’s mother, was an avid reader who had a flair for writing. Some of the children ran a family magazine.
Sir Walter treasured many memories of his home town. The soft white snow and strawberries were two of his childhood dreams. The tall, bearded fishermen who raised him high on to their shoulders he never forgot, and the anxious faces of fisherfolk as the fishing smacks entered the old harbour on stormy nights were always fresh in his memory. When the boats berthed, he never forgot the sight of the silver darlings after the hatches were lifted.
Most of James Murdoch’s congregation were fishermen and so he kept a watchful eye on the sea’s many moods, and he was often first at the Harbour Head during stormy seas. He would count the fishing vessels as they threaded a line homeward and it was known for him to stand on the pier till the last boat returned.
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