Plate, Qianlong c.1750, with the arms of Murray of Touchadam and Polmaise
Plate (two available), c.1750, with the arms of Murray of Touchadam and Polmaise in Stirlingshire.
William Murray of Touchadam and Polmaise (1679-1758) succeeded his nephew in 1729 and married secondly in 1738 Elizabeth Gibson who provided him with three sons and a daughter, the eldest being William who succeeded him in 1758 at the age of 14. In the first volume of Chinese Armorial Porcelain the date of the service is given as 1755 and there was uncertainty because of this date as to whether it was made for father or son.
However, new evidence makes it clear that the service is slightly earlier than previously thought and was in fact brought home on the 1749/50 China voyage of the East Indiaman Prince Edward, which was in Canton in 1750 under the command of Captain Robert Haldane, related by marriage to William’s sister Margaret, and brought back as a gift to William by his nephew, John Murray, a Surgeon in the East India Company.
Letters in the Stirling Archives between William Murray senior and his brother George, a surgeon, reveal that William is sponsoring his nephew’s education but, in the way of teenagers, young John is becoming worryingly dissolute. His father George reports in 1742 that :
“ ... I am informed he has got into that very Gentelmany qualification, Gameing, and I suppose Drinking etc will soon follow, 11, 12 at night, 1 or 2 in the morning are his ordinary hours to arrive home …. He values us as much as an old broom stick ...”.
His behaviour is no better several months later when he leaves his studies claiming pressing business, described in another letter from his father to William “I believe the Hurry of his bussiness was the Golf in the day time and his cardes at Night …”
Later letters from John himself to his long-suffering uncle are full of remorse and apologies, and by the late 1740s, after a false start in the army, he has qualified as a surgeon and joined the East India Company.
Extract from a letter from John Murray to his uncle, William Murray, dated London, August 16th, 1751:
I have brought from China a Sett with the arms for my aunt, & another of bowls & Muggs for you, which I beg you will accept as a small acknowledgement for the many obligations & favours I have received.
As to my own affairs I must own the voyage has succeeded better than first expected. I have made all the applications possible to get out with the first ships, but had the notification then to find they were all provided with Surgeons before our arrival, so must wait till the next season. Captain Haldane, who has been very kind, both to my younger cousins & me during the passage, has promised all his interest, as this is a very expensive place. If I must wait so long, I intend, with your consent, to come down to Scotland as soon as my affair is decided. My most sincere complements to my aunt & the family.
I am, Dear Sir, Your affectionate nephew & obliged humble servant, John Murray
William’s nephew, John Murray, was not to find a posting for another nine years when he joined the Latham (1) on her 1759/60 voyage to India, and then on her 1762/3 longer voyage to India and China, both under the command of Captain James Moffat. The ship arrived back in July 1765 but John Murray died in May that year en route for home.
Reference : Howard, David S.; Chinese Armorial Porcelain, Volume I, p.537 (but information amended above)
See also CAP Volume I for information relating to various services brought back from China by Captain Robert Haldane and Captain James Moffat.
Condition : Very small chip filled on each, otherwise perfect.