Louis: Hold up, who was this Ma Murray?

Meet the legendary straight-talking B.C. publisher behind the industry’s annual awards program

Every year, the community news industry in B.C. celebrats the accomplishments of a plethora of talented journalists, photographers and designers aby way of the Ma Murray Awards.

A quick search of Margaret “Ma” Lally Murray’s name brings up a 1966 MacLean’s article titled “Ma Murray: The Salty Scourge of Lillooet.”

“She is like her paper – as gentle as a shotgun and timid as a muleskinner.”

Known for her brash opinions, tenuous grasp of spelling and grammar and punk rock attitude long before punk rock existed, Ma Murray was British Columbia’s first female newspaper publisher of The Bridge River-Lillooet News and The Alaska Highway News. The former guaranteed “a chuckle a week or a belly laugh once a month or your money back.”

Ma was born in Kansas in 1888 and was the seventh of nine children. She had a singular goal in her younger days – to marry an Alberta cowboy.

She went off to Canada with her sister Bess, where she would take a job as a bookkkeeper at The Greater Vancouver Chinook under George Murray. She quit work at The Chinook, still headstrong about roping in an Alberta cowboy. She returned five days later, and George asked her to marry him.

The Murrays ended up in Lillooet in the early 1930s after George won the MLA seat, where they published the Bridge River-Lillooet News. The Murrays had a number of publications in their repertoire, including Country Life in British Columbia, a magazine dedicated to rural women.

Despite her lack of formal education and unorthodox writing style, Ma Murray was well-read and a fearless writer. This lack of fear often landed her in trouble with locals and their lawyers. She marched proudly to the beat of her own drum, shrugging off the scoffs of her contemporaries in more urban markets like Vancouver.

Ma was famous in no small part for her columns. Her views were often controversial, incendiary and at times even libelous. What’s more, she must have driven many a typesetter to the brink of madness. Nonetheless, Ma Murray kept pushing and still found her place in the hearts of readers across the country. Her frank, coarse and amusing columns held a mirror to the triumphs and flaws of not only small-town life but Canadian society as a whole.

Ma Murray passed away at the age of 94 in 1982, leaving behind six decades of commitment to community journalism and countless stories of society-defying antics and earthy, well-loved prose.

Ma was one of the great curmudgeons. One needs a dash of salt to work in this industry, and Ma Murray was in no short supply. She made her voice heard to even those who wouldn’t welcome it. Her brand of fearless, establishment-challenging journalism set an unapologetic standard for grizzled paper veterans to the greenest j-school graduates that in some ways can never be repeated.

Beyond the world of journalism, though, we all have a little Ma Murray in us that needs to come out. Life’s too short to refrain from expressing ourselves. We all have that voice inside us that says “Look, I have some thoughts on this and I’m going to explode if I don’t get them out.”

Good or bad, if you have unbridled enthusiasm about something and you can channel it into something creative or productive, set it free.

If the life of Ma Murray can teach us anything, it’s that it’s okay to throw your whole being into your chosen passion without fear of judgment just for the sheer joy that you can.

It’s those impassioned thoughts, ideas and pursuits that at their highest potential could inspire and change the world we live in. At the very least, those passions are a celebration of the miracle of human consciousness we so often take for granted.

It’s those drives and desires that make life worth living, and to paraphrase Ma, “that’s for darn sure.”

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

RELATED: VI Free Daily honoured for #MeToo at work

RELATED: It’s time for Canadian politicians to ‘level the digital playing field’ for news


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

A scene from the Schoolhouse Squat from October 2018, where Alliance Against Displacement members and supporters occupied the Rutherford Elementary School site, advocating for people experiencing homelessness. (News Bulletin file)
‘Schoolhouse Squat’ activists get conditional discharge in Nanaimo school occupation

Ivan Donald Drury, Tingchun (Listen) Chen sentenced in provincial court in Nanaimo

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation elected chief councillor Moses Martin, who was also Chantel Moore’s grandfather, speaks to media in Port Alberni on Aug. 16, 2020, during a visit from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh following the police shooting of Chantel Moore. (Elena Rardon photo)
Mother of two shot by police in critical condition says Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation chief

Community ‘devastated’ by third member of 1,150-person Vancouver Island nation shot in less than a year

Condemned building of the Twin Gables Motel in Crofton is not safe and yet a teen has been climbing around on the roof while others were ripping the siding off the building. (Photo submitted)
Destructive behaviour by teens wreaking havoc on Crofton

Residents becoming fed up with the constant vandalism and fires

A fire destroyed a commercial building on Idlemore Road early Tuesday. The fire is under investigation. (Kenn Mount photo)
Early morning fire destroys new Sooke distillery

Firefighters still investigating cause of Island Shiners Distillery blaze early Tuesday

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham promotes the government’s BuyBC food program in 2019. (B.C. government)
Money running out for fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in B.C. schools

‘Looking at ways to support this type of program,’ minister says

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Experts now predict 33.6% rise in B.C. home sales for 2021

BCREA economists also predict home prices to increase by 14.3%

A boat caught on fire this morning (May 11) in Port Hardy. (Adam Harding/Port Hardy Fire Rescue Facebook photo)
Fishing boat catches fire in Port Hardy, owner’s quick thinking puts out flames

The incident is a good reminder to always have a working fire extinguisher onboard your boat

Most Read