The original Murrayshall House was built in 1664 by Sir Andrew Murray; son of the First Lord of Balvaird, and brother of David Murray, the Second Lord of Balvaird and Fourth Viscount of Stormont. The direct descendants of this family are the Earls of Mansfield, who occupy Scone Palace to this day.
Sir Andrew's granddaughter, Janet Murray, went on to marry Patrick Graham, the great uncle of Thomas Graham - who later became Lord Lynedoch. Thus, the Murrays and then the Graham Murrays occupied the house for some 260 years.
The house was modernised in the 18th Century, and again in 1864. Yet, tragedy struck in 1925 when a major fire killed a young heir to the Murrayshall estate, effectively ending the Murray family's connection with this unique house and its land.
Murrayshall House then entered a happier time in its history, when it was sold on to Francis Norrie-Millar in 1927. Then Managing Director of insurance giant General Accident, Norrie-Millar proved to be the company's leading light in its early days, and quickly turned the fortunes of Murrayshall House too.
Following the death of his son, Sir Stanley Norrie-Millar, Francis sold the estate to a group of local businessmen in 1973. These discerning entrepreneurs, fully aware of its esteemed history, then established Murrayshall as the top quality country house hotel and commissioned Hamilton J Stutt to create outstanding golf courses.
Perhaps the most famous member of the Graham Murray family to be connected with Murrayshall House is Thomas Graham, who became Lord Lynedoch. A memorial to this enigmatic war hero was erected on Murrayshall Hill in 1850, where you can still see it today.
A member of an aristocratic Scottish landowning family, Graham inherited estates across Perthshire and went on to manage them successfully. He then married the famous beauty Anne Cathcart (immortalised in paint by Gainsborough), and enjoyed a happy life as the archetypal country gentleman.
However, when his wife died when he was just 43, Graham joined the army, and was quick to prove himself and climb the ranks. His finest hour was during the Battle of Barossa during the Peninsular War on 5th March 1811, when he commanded British, Portuguese and Spanish forces against the French at Cadiz in Southern Spain in which he was hailed a hero after winning the battle.
That same year, Graham was made second in command to the Duke of Wellington, and went on to fight in the Netherlands, with less success. Despite this, he was frequently praised by the British Parliament for his bravery, one commentator saying, "Never was there a loftier spirit in a braver heart.'
Lord Lynedoch was made a baronet in 1814 and served in the army until he was 70. He went on to enjoy an active and lively old age, and died in 1843 aged 93.
When the Graham Murrays sold Murrayshall House estate in 1927, it passed into the ownership of Francis Norrie-Millar, the astute and hardworking local businessman.
His father, Henry, instilled a keen understanding of figures into young Francis, who went on to work in insurance and rose to be a leading light in Perth-based insurance giant General Accident.
Francis worked for a total of four insurance companies before joining General Accident in February 1887, aged 27. His first role was as secretary on £300 a year. At this time the firm had just 1000 policies under management, a premium income of £2,833 and a first year profit of just £585. The company was ripe for growth and this is how Francis made his name.
Norrie-Millar was an energetic and creative entrepreneur, and his hard work and vision helped to grow General Accident's yearly income to £500,000 by 1906. He also succeeded in swelling the staff to 125 in the head office, and installed 12,000 agents worldwide.
Despite creating a truly global business before the concept really existed, Norrie-Millar was determined to keep General Accident's headquarters in Perth. He achieved this throughout his lifetime and beyond, until the company merged with Commercial Union in 1998 and was subsequently taken over by Aviva.
The Murrayshall Championship Golf Course is renowned for the skill of its design and the sympathetic and clever way it seamlessly blends with the natural features of the estate.
Rather than appearing to be 'dropped' into the 350-acres of heath, park and woodland, the course seems to grow naturally from the landscape. This is all testament to the skill of its designer, Hamilton J. Stutt, the grandson of the great James Braid's chief foreman.
A graduate of St. Andrews University, for whom he played both golf and tennis, Hamilton Stutt was a golf course architect for over fifty years. He learnt his trade from well-respected golf course designers Mackenzie Ross and John Morrison.
Throughout his career, Stutt was involved with over 120 new golf course builds and improvement projects. These range from designs in the UK, Ireland, France and Germany, and also in Spain, Scandinavia and the Middle East. Notable achievements include work on the famous Turnberry Golf Course with Mackenzie Ross, plus involvement in the St. Mellion Old Course, Meon Valley and Woodbury Park.
A member of the Royal and Ancient and President of Parkstone, his local club, Stutt was on the Board of the Sports Turf Research Institute for many years. He was also a National President of the British Golf Greenkeepers' Association.
Stutt is also one of the three founders and a past President of the British Institute, and in 1996 was awarded their first Silver Medal for "outstanding services to golf architecture and golf."
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