In Remembrance: Murray Young, 1922-2017

With sadness we announce the death on 18 December 2017 of Professor Emeritus D. Murray Young, member of the Department of History at the University of New Brunswick in 1959-87.


Murray Young, 1922-2017

We understand that Murray was the last of that remarkable group of Second World War veterans who entered UNB on their return from overseas, completed their first degrees here in the late 1940s, and then, as Beaverbrook Scholars, returned to Britain in the 1950s to earn the PhD, and ultimately became distinguished members of the Faculty of this university.

Born in Taymouth, New Brunswick, in 1922, Murray went to school in Marysville and Fredericton, graduated from the Provincial Normal School and taught in rural schools for two years before enlisting in the RCAF in 1942. He trained as a radar technician and served as a member of a ground crew in England. At UNB, Murray studied under Alfred Bailey and others of that extraordinary generation and was a keen participant in the political debates of the day.  Still a student, he stood as a Co-operative Commonwealth Federation candidate in both a provincial and a federal election. He ran as well in a by-election in 1947, doubling the number of votes for the CCF over the previous election but losing to the Liberal candidate Milton Gregg, who at the time was President of UNB.

Upon graduation in 1949, with an Honours BA in English and History, Murray was awarded the Alexander Mackenzie Scholarship by the University of Toronto, to do an MA in History. However, the offer of a Beaverbrook Scholarship in 1951, and his great interest in empire and colonial history, caused him to leave Toronto in favour of King’s College London. There, for his doctoral dissertation, he undertook an administrative study of the colonial office in the period 1795-1830 (later published as The Colonial Office in the Early Nineteenth Century). He gained his doctorate in 1955.

After teaching at the Memorial University of Newfoundland for four years (1954-58), Murray accepted a Ford Foundation Fellowship at Boston University, where he pursued his interest in African studies (1958-59). He returned to his home province in 1959 to take up a position in the Department of History of the University of New Brunswick, and here he remained until his retirement in 1987. He was a member of numerous university committees throughout his career, and of the Executive Committee of the Board of Governors and Senate during the tumultuous years from 1968 to 71, and was Chair of the History Department in 1974-77. He was a founding member of the scholarly journal Acadiensis, serving on its editorial board well into retirement.

As a scholar and teacher, Murray Young brought to the study of the history of imperial Britain the perspective of an urbane colonial, viewing the British Isles, British North America and British Africa from a variety of angles, presaging the emergence, decades later, of “the Atlantic World” as a vibrant new field of research. Following in the footsteps of Alfred Bailey, founder of the Departments of History and Anthropology, who had introduced New Brunswick history into the curriculum, Murray, too, turned to the study of his home province and his local community. His 23 articles on major figures of New Brunswick’s history published in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography are an enduring monument to his historical skills. Anyone who has read even one of those articles will be aware of D. M. Young’s invaluable contribution to the history of New Brunswick and of Canada. His article on Sir Howard Douglas should be required reading for all those who enter Sir Howard Douglas Hall. Murray’s elegantly written, finely honed biographies are models of the genre; they are exhaustively researched and both subtle and analytical in approach. By bringing his training and broad intellectual perspective to bear on all that he studied, Murray situated the local within the larger historical context. This was true of his teaching no less than of his research and writing.

When Murray introduced the first undergraduate course on New Brunswick history, relatively little had been published on the history of the province, but the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick had recently been established. Dr Young and his students were among the first and most enthusiastic users of this new resource. Many of his students’ papers broke new ground in the study of New Brunswick history. During the course of his career he supervised twenty MA theses and one PhD dissertation, the majority on New Brunswick topics.

Throughout his long career, Dr Young remained actively engaged in the practice of local and public history. His articles on the history of the pre-Loyalist planters along the St John River and the Loyalist settlements on the Nashwaak are well-known and much cited, and he was, for many years, a much sought-after speaker on local and regional topics. His last publication, in 2015, edited and introduced with Professor Gail G. Campbell, was A Calendar of Life in a Narrow Valley: Jacobina Campbell’s Diary, Taymouth, New Brunswick, 1825-1843. He served on the boards of local and provincial museums, historical societies, heritage committees and bicentennial committees and projects. In 2006, the Marysville Heritage Committee established the D. Murray Young Heritage Award in recognition of his contributions to public history.  He himself was the first recipient of that award.

A celebration of the life of our beloved colleague Professor Murray Young will take place at the J. A. McAdam Memorial Chapel on York Street, starting at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, 13 January 2018.

Department of History
University of New Brunswick
January 2018

About The Acadiensis Blog

The Acadiensis Blog is a place for Atlantic Canadian historians to share their research with both a scholarly and general audience. We welcome submissions on all topics Atlantic Canadian. If you are interested in contributing to the blog, please contact Acadiensis Digital Communications Editor Corey Slumkoski at
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2 Responses to In Remembrance: Murray Young, 1922-2017

  1. Pingback: Canadian History Roundup – Weeks of December 17th, 24th, 31st, 2017 and January 7, 2018 | Unwritten Histories

  2. Greg Marquis says:

    The epitome of a scholar and a gentleman. I remember many chats with Murray Young in the UNBF History common room back in the day.

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