BCN remembers Harold James Ruthven Murray (24-vi-1868 16-v-1955)
Here is his Wikipedia entry
and here is an excellent article from Edward Winter
From Amazon :
“Harold James Ruthven Murray was born on 24 June 1868. His first book A History of Chess was published by Oxford University Press in 1913. Murray covered the first 1,400 years of the game’s history in definitive detail. He died on 16 May 1955. He left several more manuscripts which are being held by Oxford University.”
From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld :
“Foremost chess historian, school inspector. His A History of Chess (1913), perhaps the most important chess book in English, was the result of about 14 years of research inspired by Lasa, and grounded on van der Linde’s work. During that period Murray contributed 35 articles to the British Chess Magazine , some of which outlined his discoveries. Most of the 900-page History is concerned with the evolution of modern chess from its oriental precursor up to the 17th century. He learned Arabic so that he could read important manuscripts, and in addition to his own circle he was able to solicit help from colleagues of his father Sir James A. H. Murray, editor-in-chief of the Oxford English Dictionary; ho was also aided by J. G. White, with both advice and the loan of rare books from the Cleveland collection, and by many others. His book includes an authoritative account of both Mansubat and medieval problems. (See also history of chess.) In 1952 he published a companion volume, A History of Board Games other than Chess.
While the scholarship of his chess book has never been questioned it is too detailed for the average chess-player. Aware of this problem, Murray wrote a briefer work approaching the topic in a more popular way. The manuscript, unfinished at his death, was completed and published in 1963 as A Short History of Chess. (See Civis Bononiae.)
From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Golombek :
“Chess historian and a Board of Education Inspector of Schools. Appropriately enough, a son of the pioneering editor of the great Oxford English Dictionary, he became interested in the history of chess in the early 1890s. Up to this time the historical writings on chess in English had been unhistorical. In order to fit himself for the task Murray learned several languages including Arabic and he also studied the true historians of chess, the German writers, Van der Linde and Von der Lassa.
In his own words his aim was to trace the development of the modern European game from the first appearance of its ancestor, the Indian chaturanga, in the beginning of the seventh century of our era. This he did in a vast work of some 900 pages published in Oxford in 1913. An immense amount of painstaking research had gone into the work and only a man of Murray’s great learning could have attempted it.
It at once became the standard book on the subject and has remained so ever since. Murray left behind among his papers an unfinished work A Short History of Chess which took the history of the game up to 1866 which gave a clearer and more readable account of the history of the game than his main work. This was brought up to date by Goulding-Brown and Golombek and published in Oxford in 1963.”
From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Sunnucks :
“The chess historian who wrote the History of Chess, published by Oxford University Press in 1913. Murray was born in Camberwell on 24th June, 1868, the eldest son of Sir James Murray, the_first editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. After graduating from Balliol College, Oxford, with a First Class in the Final Mathematical School, in 1890 Murray became a master at Queen’s College, Taunton, where he learned to play chess. He later taught at Carlisle Grammar School and in 1896 became the headmaster of Ormskirk Grammar School. About 1893 his interest in the history of the game was aroused, and four years later, encouraged by the great German writer and authority on the game, Baron Von der Lasa, his historical researches began.
From 1901-1928 he was a Board of Education Inspector of Schools, an appointment which made it difficult for him to play much chess. He began to turn his attention more and more to the history of the game, contributing articles to The British Chess Magazine and Deutsches Wochenschach. He made the acquaintance of J. J. White of Cleveland, Ohio, owner of the largest chess library in the world, and was given access to this collection, as well as one owned by J. W. Rimington Wilson in England. White’s library contained a number of Arabic manuscripts, and, in order to be able to study them, Murray learned Arabic. The History of Chess took him 13 years to complete.
On his retirement from the Board of Education, Murray served as Chairman of Fernhurst Parish Council and was a member of Midhurst R.D.C. from 1931-1955 and was Chairman of its Housing Committee from 1938-1948. His other interests, apart from chess, were genealogy, local history, walking and bird watching. In 1952 he published A History of Board Games Other than Chess.
After his death A Short History of Chess was found uncompleted among his papers. Additional chapters were added by B. Goulding Brown and H. Golombek, and it was published in 1963.”
(Bertram Goulding Brown was a tournament chess player and a contributor to British Chess Magazine. He was born 5 July 1881 and died 22 August 1965 in the United Kingdom.)
You may read the entire book here
According to Edward Winter in Chess Notes HJRM lived 53 Hagley Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, England (Ranneforths Schach-Kalender, 1915, page 71).