John Murrish

Cambridge District Scout Archive

John Morrish MA attended Fitzwilliam Hall, graduating in 1911, and become a teacher.  He was a Scout Master with the 10th Cambridge and the founder of the 12th Cambridge in 1911, which stemmed from the 10th.   It is as John Morrish that he is listed as a leader with the 10th Cambridge in 1911.

Cambridge Rally 1913 SM J Murrish Scouter left hand side back row (as viewed)

Before 1915 John Morrish changed his name to John Murrish.  The reason for the change is unclear but early letters are addressed to Morrish and the Cambridge University War List has ‘J Morrish, see Murrish’. 

Co founder and coordinator of the Cambridge Red Feather Brigade alongside SM Copplestone of the 6th. John Murrish later received his own Red Feather.

See Scouts Defence Corps

1916 – 1919    Murrish was called up in 1916, the year when conscription started; in January for single men, July for married men.  He was a Lieutenant in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry and Royal Engineers (Field Survey Bn.).  His entry in the Cambridge University War List also records that he was wounded, but not how.

1919                He was back in Cambridge in 1919/1920 and continued to be involved and supportive of the 12th Cambridge and active at District level (see below). 

On his return from war he studied applied psychology.

A scrapbook of the 12th Cambridge in the Cambridgeshire Collection has a number of ‘Scout News’ columns published in the local newspaper under the tag of Wolverine.  It is not stated but John may have been the author of these pieces. His discussions with Ernest Thompson Seton (below) involved a tale concerning a Wolverine.

During this time that from his old College the Fitzwilliam Hall Amateur Dramatic Society performed a fundraiser for the troop.

1921                He left the District in 1921 to take up a head masters role at Springfield School, Moseley Birmingham.  The local paper records this as Springfield College, but this is probably a mistake for Springfield (primary school), College Road, Moseley.

1944                He retained Cambridge links particularly to All Saints Cambridge and may have returned to live here.  John donated a window to All Saint Church, Cambridge (See page ‘Stained glass Scout’) which depicts a Scout in the troop scarf of the 12th Cambridge.

He died on the 3rd September 1965 and is buried in the All Saints portion of Mill Road Cemetery Cambridge alongside his wife and mother in law.

John and Ernest Thompson Seton

From the Cambridgeshire Collection a letter of 1913 exists from Ernest Thompson Seton to ‘Scoutmaster’.   ‘To Scoutmaster John Morrish’ can be seen below the signature.  It mentions the story of Wolverine and asks him not to publish it ahead of his own story.

See Ernest Thompson Seton under Elsewhere for full letter and an attempted reading

John and the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry

At some point c 1915 John was introduced to Aubrey Westlake (Cambridge student and joint founder of OWC) who was acting as SM probably for the 5th Cambridge District (Trumpington).  In 1915 and 1916 John was involved in the development of the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry, a Woodcraft based alternative to Baden Powell’s Boy Scouts.  The OWC was, in particular, opposed to what they perceived as growing militarism within Scouting.  Aubrey Westlake called John as a friend and ‘a remarkable individual’.  It is Murrish who introduced Westlake to the ideas of Ernest Thompson Seton.

Aubrey was training to be a Doctor; it was John with a greater experience of Scouting and of Education who wrote the paper Aubrey delivered to the Central Education Committee of the Society of Friends (Quakers) in November 1915.

From Edgell’s history of the Order we have ‘In fact Aubrey was apprehensive about the invitation and the paper he read before the gathered assembly was actually written for him by Murrish.  A few years later he was to admit that Murrish at this moment in time had been ’the inspiring force’ and that without him ‘I should have done nothing’. 

‘In the first instance the (Order of Woodcraft Chivalry) Council consisted of Ernest (Westlake), Aubrey (Westlake), Robert Parker, (Aubrey’s old Cambridge colleague), John Murrish and Spencer Smith.’

‘Whilst the executive “gained” … it also lost a great deal by the departure of other people, particularly Murrish.  Indeed the Westlake’s were so worried for a time that the OWC might not survive the loss of Murrish that they spoke to the order having to await his return before things could progress in the manner they wanted.  As it turned out this was never to happen, although quite why it did not is difficult to say.  Whilst there is some record of Murrish engaging in woodcraft activities with the OWC in 1919, that is the last that is known of him.’

John is the only person I have identified as being amongst the ‘leading members of Cambridgeshire Scouting’ that the OWC histories suggest were instrumental in the breakaway.  It is interesting that he was immediately brought back into the 12th Cambridge and asked to take on a District role on his return from the war.  This suggests that the effect of the OWC was less than they would have liked; that John’s part was not understood locally or that he was such an important player that he was welcomed or enticed back and forgiven. 

See the page on Order of Woodcraft Chivalry: Cambridge Connections

Cambridge Archive

1920

12th. (Milton Road)  The 12th are simply great in outdoor operations as they always were: who can forget their wading through the mud in Quy water, deluged with soil from the bags of gold on their backs! But they need to remember that we expect a high standard of them in all Scoutcraft, including elementary Second Class work. We congratulate them on getting Mr. Murrish back: their summer camp at Wimpole seems to have been typical of pre-war days.             Reveille 1920

THE Senior Scouts’ Club has been closed this autumn, till we could find a new Supervisor. We are glad to say that S.M. J. Murrish has consented to undertake the work, and hopes to open it in January. Scouts of 15 and over (and all P.L’s. of 13 and oval, who are full members of any Troops may join the Club by paying 1/6 a year. Reveille 1920

Mr. Murrish is also going to run a Senior Scout Troop at the Albert for those who do not belong to any other Troop. They must be at least 15 years old, or have left school. We hope that it will be a great success, and that the Albert may become a real Scoutcraft Centre for Cambridge. Members of the Senior Club will be entitled to attend the Socials on Saturday evenings, as well as a certain number of classes, etc., which the Senior Troop hopes to throw open to them.             Reveille 1920

1944/5          Donated £100 to the (Adventurer) boat fund

1947                Twelve months ago, when landing craft were offered for sale to the public, the 12th Cambridge Scout Group bought one, and under the direction of their Scoutmaster, Mr W.A. Mackrow, they set to work with a will to convert it for troop use. On Saturday the result of their hard work and skill – a trim looking and extremely comfortable seaworthy craft was named the “Adventurer”. Founder of the troop in 1911, its first Scoutmaster – and a staunch supporter ever since – Mr J. Murrish performed the ceremony, which took place at Peterhouse boat yard.      c47 04 08 Mike Petty

John Murrish anointing the bows of the Adventurer with champagne

John Murrish is still remembered by the Scouters in his Group who are blessed by having access to a several scrapbooks and many records of past events.

John Morrish 1913

JWR Archivist July 2019