Scotsman Obituaries: Hugh Murray, international triple jump athlete and GP

Dr Hugh Murray. Born: 19 February 1935 in Colwyn Bay. Died: 9 June 2023 in Edinburgh, aged 88​
Hugh Murray racing across the trackHugh Murray racing across the track
Hugh Murray racing across the track

Hugh Murray was a leading Scottish and British international athlete who specialised in triple jump, an event more commonly known then as “hop, step and jump”.

Scottish champion on three occasions, he also represented Scotland in the 1958 Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff and later that year performed with distinction for Great Britain in contests against the Commonwealth and France. In the Commonwealth match he leapt 48’ 2’’, one of his best marks, to finish 3rd and first Briton. In addition to competing for Scotland in three international fixtures, all of which he won, Hugh claimed several Scottish Universities’ titles for Edinburgh University and represented the Army, having won Army and Inter Services Championships. He also broke the Scottish record for the event but initially that was not recognised due to a rule then requiring the athlete to be Scottish born. After he made representations, the rule was changed to permit Scottish parentage and his record could be accepted.

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Away from the athletics arena he was an empathetic, highly regarded GP with Edinburgh University Students Health Centre for almost 30 years, considered a complete gentleman and one who lived a full and varied life.

Away from track and field Hugh was a talented and popular GPAway from track and field Hugh was a talented and popular GP
Away from track and field Hugh was a talented and popular GP

Hugh Miller Murray was born in Colwyn Bay, Wales, the second of four children of William and Elizabeth. His elder brother was Douglas and two younger sisters, Margaret and Alison. William was a chest physician in a tuberculosis sanatorium, a widespread condition then, and Hugh grew up initially in nearby Abergele. In 1939 the family moved to New Cumnock in Ayrshire where his father was appointed Superintendent of the sanatorium and Hugh began school at the local primary.

In 1945 the family moved to East Lothian where William took up another tuberculosis-related appointment at East Fortune Hospital, at which point Hugh started attending Dollar Academy as a boarder.

He was a bright pupil, attaining six highers by age 16 and a year later recording his first significant athletics achievement, finishing 3rd at triple jump in the Scottish Schools Championships. Winner that day and future rival was Tom McNab, later a multitalented figure and worldwide athletics authority well known for his involvement in making Chariots of Fire. Recalling Hugh, he commented: “He was a first-class chap and a very natural gifted athlete.”

After leaving school, where he had been Drum Major in the pipe band, Hugh began studying medicine at Edinburgh University where his athletics career gathered momentum as he placed 3rd at the Scottish Championships in 1954. Over the next nine years he won the title three times and was twice runner up. He represented Scotland in internationals three times against Ireland and Wales, winning each time, while a highlight was competing for Scotland in the 1958 Empire Games, a memorable experience although he was disappointed with his performance, having suffered “an off day.” Shortly after he redeemed himself with an excellent leap in the Great Britain vs Commonwealth match at London’s White City, securing 3rd place behind the Empire Games gold and bronze medallists, finishing first Briton as he did in the international against France in Paris.

In 1957 he demonstrated versatility, winning bronze at javelin throw in the Scottish Championships, while in 1971 he staged a brief jumping comeback to compete in the Scottish Championships, finishing two places in the annual ranking list above a certain young triple jumper, Allan Wells. Hugh captained the University athletics team, was awarded a “Blue” and in his final year was appointed to the prestigious post of President of the Students’ Union , liaising on occasions with the Chancellor, the Duke of Edinburgh and Rector, actor James Robertson Justice.

After graduating he was called up for National Service in the Royal Army Medical Corps, served with 3 Parachute Regiment in the UK, Aden and Germany, where he parachuted over the Kiel Canal, wryly recalling that “medics” jumped first to be on the ground to deal with any casualties.

Once National Service was over, he landed what might be considered a plum post as personal physician to Robert Johnson II on a two-year round the world yachting cruise. Johnson was President of famous healthcare company Johnson & Johnson and engaged a small staff to accompany him, with visits to Tahiti and South Africa being among the standouts.

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Following that, Hugh took up an appointment as GP in Saskatchewan, Canada, through a combination of a spirit of adventure and the need for doctors there.

While back in Edinburgh on holiday in 1967 he met Janice Russell, a physiotherapist who shared a flat with his sister Alison, and a year later they wed in West Linton, going on to enjoy a long, happy marriage during which they had children Jean and Alastair and lived mostly in the Edinburgh’s Fairmilehead area.

In 1970 Hugh joined the University Health service as GP, where he continued until retirement in 1998. Apart from family and practice, he enjoyed a range of activities and interests. His sporting enthusiasm continued; he was a regular attender at Murrayfield for internationals and in 1986 was appointed doctor for the athletes’ village at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. Hugh was a keen curler with the West Linton club and for the BMA , while he also played golf at Baberton and Luffness. A lover of the Great Outdoors since his days at Dollar, he and Janice succeeded in completing all the Munros. Another interest was literature, especially poetry – he had some of his own work published.

Described in the history of Edinburgh University Athletic Club as “a very popular athlete”, Hugh was extremely likeable, kind, humble and thoughtful. He is survived by his wife, children, sisters and grandchildren David, Robbie, John and Anna.


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