Mr Murray hated children and spent a lifetime putting them in their place. As the Museum of
Childhood re-opens in extended premises, Sally Fm“ “‘“l Rm?“ Mllm‘v‘f“? i Kinnes discovers the skeletons in the toy cupboard. ounded the museum in 1953. liked
to cultivate and he struggled to make . people realise ‘lt's a Museum of 3 Childhood. not a children’s museum. Does the proprietorofa zoo expect the visitors to be lions and tigers‘.”
Toys. according to Murray have always been very up-to-date. (‘hildren “had sputniks immediately after the Russians and a Loch Ness Monster before anyone at all.‘ In the new museum. there is a wooden Loch Ness Monster on the ground floor. an automaton who for the price of 10 pence will swim about in his watery wooden depths. eluding the inadequate efforts of the would—be monster catcher above. helplessly splayed across his boat. It
The Museum ofChildhood in l Edinburgh was designed as a place l about childhood for adults by a man i who didn‘t like children. These were i
is part of a collection of automata which includes a nickelodeon offering its mechanised orchestration for 20 pence. although it had been temporarily raided when l was shown round the museum for the more pressing need ofa pint of .. w. . _ ' ‘ \ milk. The curiouslv named , ' -’.-;-,.;«__ H .' ’ ’ ‘Weddingof Madame (iuillotine'. i i now sadly no longer working. is a Eddie“? 5 guillotine of the French revolutionarysort. ltsautomated blade used to fall on puppet necks. effecting sudden death for the modest stun ofone (old) penny. There were sufficient children of revolutionary zeal. or sufficient ‘ revolting children. to make it yield a revenue of about £2 a week. representing some 480
decapitations. lntriguingly. head
and body were re-united. with no apparent ill-effect. except the temptation to divide them again. a repeated death at least escaped by
the French Royalists. 'l'he l‘)3()s Haunted House. now in working order. was catalogued by Murray as having been ‘extensively repaired.
but is now. frankly but . . . . h'm . . . .
a ghost of itself.’
couldn‘t have been more than 12 or 15. To a Museum (’urator when distracted by noisy or aggravating children this seems a very disappointing total. and one well within his capacities to improve.‘ Most people apparently found it amusing except. to his delight. passing vicars who found it in appalling taste. The design is part of the first case of the museum with other mementoes of Murray. including his school report. aged 4. (‘Arithmeticz could concentrate more; Reading: has made a fair
beginning‘) from St Margaret's Ladies (‘ollege ('l‘ransitional and Kindergarten) Edinburgh. l‘)l3-l-1.
Murray revelled in playing upon his eccentric image. He would shave his head in his first floor office with the door wide open to the public and was an absolute perfectionist in everything except his own dress and appearance. apparently still wearing the same ink-soaked shirt three weeks after an accident with the Quink.
l le wrote and illustrated a handbook to the museum. divided
Left: The necessary bear— one of the thousands at toys amongst childhood memorabilia collected by Patrick Murray. Right and above: Idealised childhood? Murray's own illustrationsto the original
Part of the charm of the old museum was the personal and idiosyncratic attention of Murray. An avid collector himself. he ‘lived‘ the museum for some 20 years. He wrote and typed all the labels himself. legendary for their quirky cryptic messages. often very comical. but with a barb in the tail. Unfortunately most of the original labels are no longer being used in the new museum — ‘we couldn‘t compete‘ said the new curator. Murray"s list of costume included ‘that Anglo-American outrage. the
little l.ord Fauntleroy" and he noted disagreeably that dolls donated by an extrovert child ‘usually and most damnany had had their hair cut.‘ lie commissioned a proposed memorial window to ‘( iood lsic) King llerod'
with the inscription: ‘Modern
2 research suggests that the exact i ” »,
'1 number of ‘lnnocents’ massacred
4’l‘hel.ist 11— :4 July
by sections like ‘small toys of no particular category. except that they ought to be seen‘ and ‘Musts . . . without which life for children was found to be impossible.‘ There was
also a section on medicines (for it is a
museum not just of toys. but ofall things pertaining to childhood) including ‘Tastless (‘astor Oil (a black lie!)‘ and (horrible thought) a medicine spoon with hollow handle so the nurse could blow down it and ensure the medicine reached its prescribed destination — unless of course the wise child blew first.
Most of the exhibits in the new building. costing some three quarters ofa million pounds (many now down from the attic of the old museum) were donated. It can count
among its benefactors the Romanian
and Czechoslovakian governments and the Lady Provost of I955. who gave the clothes she wore as a baby. There is an Egyptian doll ‘in her
4(l(l()th year'. a triumph of frustration
- a jigsaw ofa Jackson Pollok painting and ‘gone-forevers‘. like wristlets for keeping small hands warm when playing the piano in icy drawing-rooms.‘ Also ‘miracles of flimsy eccentricity" ie German
clockwork motorcars and a wealth of
things saved from but vulnerable to ‘that frenzied malice which afflicts housewives in the rage ofspring cleaning.‘ Murray. who described himself as ‘very much a bachelor‘ was not apparently any more fond of women than he was ofchildren.
But beyond the gruffness. there was a not inconsiderable understanding ofchildren and a not insignificant charm. Essentially he was a shy witty man. with a great sense of humour and a great sense of fun. An uncompromising eccentric. ‘Oh. completely mad' said one woman who used to work with him. ‘I was very fond of him .‘
The Museum ()f( 'hildhood. 42 High Street. Edinburgh willbc open/rum
22 July. M ()n-Sai 10am-5pm until and
September. l()-5pnz (hereaﬂer. During the Edinburgh Festival (I 0-30 A ugus!) it will also be open Sundays 2-5pm.