James Murray, Lord Philiphaugh

Sir James Murray, Lord Philiphaugh (1655–1708), of Philiphaugh, was Lord Clerk Register of Scotland.


He was the eldest son of Sir John Murray of Philiphaugh, by Anne, daughter of Sir Archibald Douglas of Cavers, and was born in 1655.[1]

As member for Selkirkshire, he sat in the convention of estates which assembled at Edinburgh, 26 June 1678, and he was chosen member for the same county in 1681.

He was also Sheriff of Selkirk in succession to his father. On 18 November 1680 he and Urquhart of Meldrum, a commander of the king's troops, brought complaints against each other before the privy council. Murray asserted that Urquhart had sought to interfere with his jurisdiction as sheriff and had threatened him with imprisonment, while Urquhart accused Murray of remissness in taking proceedings against the covenanters, and of declining to supply him with a list of those concerned in the rebellion. As power had only been granted to Urquhart to act as justice of the peace, and not to sit alone as magistrate, he had exceeded his prerogatives in interfering with the duties of Murray as sheriff, but the council declined to affirm that he had acted beyond his powers. On 21 Jan. 1681 the case was again brought before the council, and finally, on 6 October, the council found that Murray had "malversed and been remiss in punishing conventicles", and therefore they simply deprived him of his right of sheriffship of Selkirk, it not being heritable, but bought by King Charles from his father, and declared it was devolved in the king's hands to give it to any other. According to Lauder some said that "seeing the Duchess of Lauderdale's courtship, by which he had stood, was now dried up, he came well off that he was not likewise fined". [1]

After the discovery of the Rye House plot, Murray was, in September 1684, committed to prison. Being brought before the council on the 6th, and threatened with the boots, he made a confession and threw himself on the mercy of Queensberry, and on 1 October, he was liberated on bail of £1,000 to appear when called. Subsequently, on application to the king, he and others received pardon, with the view of their testimony being used against the chief contrivers of the Rye House plot. He was a witness against Robert Baillie of Jerviswood on 23 December 1684, and also against the Earl of Tarras on 5 and 6 Jan. 1685. His evidence was also adduced against Patrick Hume, 1st Earl of Marchmont, Pringle of Torwoodlie, and others, against whom sentence of forfeiture was passed in their absence.[1]

After the revolution Murray was, on 28 Oct. 1689, made an ordinary lord of session, with the title Lord Philiphaugh, and he took his seat on 1 Nov. Subsequently he became the close political associate of James Douglas, 2nd Duke of Queensberry, and he is described by George Lockhart as 'by very far the most sufficient and best man he trusted and advised with'. On 3 October 1698, Queensberry wrote to William Carstares expressing a wish that 'when his Majesty shall think to dispose of the other places now vacant' Philiphaugh might be made lord justice clerk, adding that 'besides being well qualified for the office' he had placed him under such obligation as he could 'in no other wise requite than by using his interest for his advancement'. The application was, however, unsuccessful. In 1700 Philiphaugh wrote several letters to Carstares in regard to the state of political feeling in Scotland, and urging the advisability of the king paying Scotland a visit in order to tranquillise matters (ib. passim). On 17 July 1701 the Duke of Argyll in a letter to Carstares, recounting his difficulties in persuading Queensberry to adopt measures for gaining over Lord Whitelaw, wrote : 'But alas ! still Philiphaugh is the burden of his song, and, to speak in Jocky terms, he is his dead weight'.[1]

After the accession of Queen Anne, Philiphaugh was appointed Lord Clerk Register, in succession to the James Ogilvy, 4th Earl of Findlater, 21 Nov. 1702. According to George Lockhart, when Queensberry in 1703 informed Philiphaugh of the difficulties which his agreement with the Jacobites had brought him into with Argyll and others, Philiphaugh informed him that he had brought them upon himself by having 'dealings with such a pack'. It is quite clear that Philiphaugh exerted all his influence to induce Queensberry to join the cavalier party, a fact which sufficiently explains the encomiums passed on him by Lockhart. The removal of Queensberry from office, on account of his imprudent negotiations with Simon Fraser of Lovat, which resulted in the so-called Queensberry plot, led to Philiphaugh being superseded as clerk-register in June 1704 by James Johnston. Lockhart, however, states that Philiphaugh was one of the agents in negotiating that 'the examination of the plot should not be pushed to any length,' provided the Duke of Queensberry's friends would join the cavaliers in opposing the succession and other measures of the court. When Queensberry was restored to office in 1706 Philiphaugh was on 1 June also restored to his office of clerk-register. He died at Inch, 1 July 1708.[1]


By his first wife, Anne, daughter of Hepburn of Blackcastle, he had no issue. By his second wife, Margaret, daughter of Sir Alexander Don of Newton, he had three sons and five daughters. He was succeeded by his eldest son, John. Macky describes Philiphaugh as of 'fair complexion, fat, middle-sized.' He also states that he was of 'clever natural parts,' and ' notwithstanding of that unhappy step of being an evidence to save his life,' he 'continued still a great countryman.'[1]



  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHenderson, Thomas Finlayson (1894). "Murray, James (1655-1708)". In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 39. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 370–371.