Sir James Murray

Situated next to the Text house on the Main Street you will find an unassuming house with a plaque.

This is where the Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary Sir James Murray was born.

He was born in 1837 in one of the two rooms rented by his parents in the Crown Inn (now 3 Main Street).

 

His mother, a Hawick girl, had been a servant at Deanburn Cottage on Denholm Haugh, then the home of the Independent minister.

 

His father was a tailor, but though he worked hard, money was always scarce and he encouraged his sons to study and better themselves. James would have needed little telling as he seems to have been born with an insatiable thirst for knowledge and a prodigious memory.

At the age of seven his parents sent him to school at Cavers. For two years he had to walk the three miles to cavers and back but his parents must have thought it a better one than the school in Denholm. When he was nine he moved to the auld school on the Green where his ability was quickly recognised.

When he was twelve he and his two younger brothers transferred to the parish school at Minto, one and a half miles away. Clever as he was he had to leave school at fourteen because his family could not afford to send him to grammar school at Melrose. He continued to educate himself as best he could although books were difficult to come by.

At the age of seventeen he got a job as an assistant school master in Hawick. He proved such an excellent teacher that, after three years, he was offered the headmastership of a new private school in Hawick, a post he held for ten years.

 

In 1864 he moved to London in a vain attempt to find a healthier climate for his sick wife! 
He took the first job he was offered, as a bank clerk in the city where he remained for six years.

In 1870 he returned to schoolmastering at Mill Hill in north London and towards the end of the decade he agreed to become the editor of the New English Dictionary (later the Oxford English Dictionary). He worked on this for thirty five years until his death in 1915 when it was still unfinished. He was knighted in 1908.

© 2020 by Jane & Kevin Currie