Rupert Murdoch Family History
Keith Rupert Murdoch was born on March 11, 1931 to Sir Keith and Elisabeth Murdoch in Melbourne, Australia.
Rupert was twenty-one and studying at Oxford University in England when he got the news in 1952 that his father had died. He returned to take charge of the family business. After liquidation of his father’s Herald stake to pay taxes, he was left with remnants of his newspaper holdings.
The business thus passed from father to son. In the years that followed Rupert Murdoch was to expand into Britain and America and into TV and film, making him the international media mogul that he is today.
His father might have recognized some of the challenges that he faced, from the phone hacking scandal in Britain to Fox News’ intrusion into right-wing politics in America (and its massive payout to Dominion Voting Systems in 2023). But his father had died early and was not in charge of his empire as his son still was at the age of ninety years plus.
His Scottish Forebears
The Rev. James Murdoch, born in 1818, may have come originally from Stirling. but he was first recorded at Pitsligo in Aberdeenshire where he married Helen Garden in 1848.
He was a minister of the Free Church of Scotland at Rosehearty. He and Helen were the parents of fourteen children. He died in 1884, the year that some of his offspring decided to make the move to Australia.
The First Generation in Australia
The Murdochs that came to Melbourne, Victoria in 1884 included Patrick aged 34 and his wife Annie, Nora aged 23, and Walter just ten.
Nora married David Curle-Smith and moved to Western Australia. Her husband pioneered a new type of electric stove and Nora wrote the first ever cookbook for electric stoves in 1907. Walter also made the move to Western Australia, settling in Perth. He became a founding Professor of English and the Chancellor of the University of Western Australia.
“In 1970, the Prime Minister, on announcing the new university name in Western Australia as Murdoch University said: ‘He is a distinguished scholar and a man of letters. His name gives dignity to our new university.’ A few weeks later, at the age of 96, Sir Walter Murdoch died.”
Patrick meanwhile for forty years was a minister at the Trinity Presbyterian church in Camberwell, an affluent suburb of Melbourne. His clergyman’s stipend there was low. Yet he had the more notable offspring. His son was Keith Murdoch, who founded the Murdoch newspaper empire, and his grandson Rupert Murdoch, the international media mogul.
The Next Generation
Patrick’s son Keith was born in Melbourne in 1885. Cursed with a stammer, this initially inhibited his journalistic efforts. But the First World War established his credentials as a political correspondent, first in Melbourne and then in London.
He returned to Australia in 1921 to be chief editor of the Melbourne Herald. It was at this time that he learnt the ropes of popular journalism and put them into practice – how to sell papers with crime stories and lurid pictures, how to build a circulation, and how to ward off competition.
He was very successful with the Melbourne Herald and by the late 1920’s had begun to acquire newspapers elsewhere in Australia and to expand into radio. His empire continued to develop in the postwar years, but he died unexpectedly in 1952 at the age of sixty-seven.
Sir Keith’s wife Elizabeth lived on to the age of a hundred and three, not dying until 2012.
A Broadside from Keith Murdoch
Keith Murdoch had been in London at the onset of World War One and became irate at the British treatment of him and his compatriots. This broadside found its way to the desk of the Australian Prime Minister of his day:
“The conceit and self-complacency of the red feathered men are equalled only by their incapacity. Along the line of communications, especially at Moudros, are countless high officers and conceited young cubs who are plainly only playing at war.
What can you expect of men who have never worked seriously, who have lived for their appearance and for social distinction and self satisfaction, and who are now called on to conduct a gigantic war?
Kitchener now has a terrible task in getting pure work out of these men whose motives can never be pure for they are unchangeably selfish. Appointments to the general staff are made from motives of friendship and social influence. Australians now loathe and detest any Englishman wearing red.”
Rupert Murdoch’s Family Tree
- Rev. James Murdoch (1818-1884) m. Helen Garden (1826-1905) in Aberdeenshire in 1848
- – Patrick Murdoch (1850-1940)
- – Francis Murdoch (b. 1852)
- – James Murdoch (b. 1854) m. Anna Blaikie
- – William Murdoch (b. 1856)
- – Andrew Murdoch (1859-1902) m. Ella Burton in South Africa
- – Helen (Nora) Murdoch (1861-1924) m. David Curle-Smith in Australia
- – Walter Murdoch (1874-1970) m. Violet Hughston in Australia
- Rev. Patrick John Murdoch m. Annie Brown (1856-1945) in Aberdeenshire in 1882 and came to Australia in 1884
- – Keith Murdoch (1885-1952)
- – Francis Murdoch (1887-1993)
- – Alec Murdoch (1889-1920)
- – Ivon Murdoch (1892-1958) m. Alvon Anderson
- – Alan Murdoch (1894-1971)
- Sir Keith Murdoch m. Elisabeth Greene (1909-2012) in Melbourne in 1928
- – Helen Murdoch (1929-2004) m. Geoff Handbury
- – Rupert Murdoch (b. 1931)
- – Anne Murdoch (b. 1936) m. Milan Kantor
- – Janet Murdoch (b. 1939) m. John Calvert-Jones
- Rupert Murdoch from Melbourne m. Patricia Booker in 1956 (divorced in 1967); rem. Anna Torv in 1967 (divorced in 1999); Wendi Deng from China in 1999 (divorced in 2011); and Jerry Hall in 2016 (divorced in 2022)
- – Prudence (Prue) Murdoch (b. 1958 in Adelaide) with Patricia, m. Alastdair MacLeod
- – Elizabeth Murdoch (b. 1968 in Sydney) with Anna, m. Elkin Planim, Matthew Freud and Keith Tyson
- – Lachlan Murdoch (b. 1971 in London) with Anna, m. Sarah O’Hare
- – James Murdoch (b. 1972 in London) with Anna, m. Kathryn Hufschmid
- – Grace Murdoch (b. 2001 in New York) with Wendi
- – Chloe Murdoch (b. 2003 in New York) with Wendi
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