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Ruby Florence Campbell Murray (1935 - 1996):

Ruby Murray

Ruby Florence Campbell Murray was born at 84 Moltke Street off the Donegall Road, Belfast on 29 March 1935. The youngest of four children she was named after a local comedienne and chip shop assistant. Her early years were mostly uneventful, apart from an operation for swollen glands which resulted in her famous husky voice, and her evacuation to the country (Liscolman, County Antrim) during the Second World War.

Murray's ambition to be a singer was launched at the age of eleven when she entered and won a talent competition in a local newspaper. She subsequently sang professionally on Saturday nights in various venues outside Belfast until she left Fane Street school aged fourteen. She toured Scotland with Tommy Morgan for six months and then went tour Ireland in variety for a further two years.

Her big break came when Richard Afton, a producer, spotted her on stage in the show Yankee Doodle Blarney in the Metropolitan Theatre London. He signed her up as the replacement for Joan Regan in the television show Quite Contrary, which in turn led to a recording contract with Columbia Records.

Her first record Get well soon was released in 1954 with limited success but it was followed by Heartbreak which reached Number 5 in the Top Twenty charts. 1955 however brought Murray the stardom she sought. Top performer in the United Kingdom that year, she had at least one single in the charts for fifty-two weeks without a break, and had five singles in the Top Twenty during the same week - an achievement still unsurpassed today. Softly, Softly was her only Number One hit but it became the song with which she is still most closely associated. In the same year she was voted `Favourite Female Star' by readers of the New Musical Express and topped the bill at the world famous London Palladium for seven months.

Murray married Bernard Burgess of the Jones Boys harmony group on 23 August 1957. They had a son and a daughter.

Her last chart success was Goodbye Jimmy, Goodbye which reached Number 10 in 1959. She then made regular appearances on the cabaret circuit and on many television programmes but her dependency on alcohol and drugs took its toll on her health and particularly her marriage which ended in divorce in 1977. In 1993 she married her long-standing partner Ray Lamar a theatrical impresario.

On 17 December 1996 aged sixty-one Murray died of bronchial pneumonia and liver cancer in Torbay Hospital.

On 29 March 2006 Belfast City Council erected a plaque to Ruby Murray at the Ulster Hall to pay tribute to "one of the city's most famous and well-loved daughters". Her son, daughter and former husband Bernie Burgess attended the event. Apart from her renown as a singer her name 'Ruby Murray' has become popular rhyming slang for curry.

Born: 29 March 1935
Died: 17 December 1996
Linda Greenwood