£50,000 telescope collection to be auctioned in Edinburgh

Gabrielle Woods of Lyon & Turnbull with one of Allan Murray's Henry Fitz telescopes
Gabrielle Woods of Lyon & Turnbull with one of Allan Murray's Henry Fitz telescopes
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HIS love of astronomy was sparked by the hours he spent gazing up at the stars throughout his childhood in Gullane.

Growing up in the picturesque East Lothian town, Allan Murray developed a fascination with star spotting - one which set him off on a lifetime of collecting.

Next week, Mr Murray’s £50,000 collection of 20 telescopes will go under the hammer at Lyon and Turnbull. Among the items are some examples of the earliest telescopes made.

Paul Roberts, vice-chairman of Lyon and Turnbull, said: “Many people who knew Allan did not know that he also had a fascination with the stars that had been kindled by his boyhood.

“His collection of telescopes contains some of the earliest examples since their invention of these wonderful scientific instruments.”

The late Mr Murray was born in Gullane in August 1943 and died in Hong Kong in February 2016.

He had been educated at Gullane Primary and North Berwick High where he took a great interest in words and a love of language, going on to keep 13 dictionaries by his bed as an adult.

Following in the tradition of Scottish merchant adventurers, he made his fortune in the Far East through banking, becoming notable in society through roles such as the former chairman of the Hong Kong Club. He was also a voting member of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, and chairman of the Shek-O Golf and Country Club.

Mr Roberts said: “Allan was one of the last representatives of the breed of resourceful, hard-living expatriate Scots who built Britain’s commercial presence in Asia.”

Yet he did not forget his upbringing in Scotland and made substantial donations and gifts, especially to the National Galleries of Scotland.

When he and his wife Carol would return to the country, they stayed at the Royal Scots Club, on Abercromby Place. They would enjoy twice-yearly lunches at Café Royal where their guests were senior businessmen, museum directors and curators and gallery owners.

His telescope collection - some of which is due to go to auction on Wednesday - was in fact originally offered to the National Museums of Scotland in its entirety. Many of the pieces were accepted, yet the remainder did not fit with its collecting policy and will therefore now be offered for sale by Lyon and Turnbull.

Among the pieces are the internationally famous names of London scientific makers of the late 18th century including Jesse Ramsden, John and Peter Dolond, Edward Troughton and William Simms. There is also a 4inch refracting telescope by the eminent Dublin maker Sir Howard Grubb, valued at £2,000-3,000, whose work was viewed as the best by an international clientele supplying observatories on five continents.

There are also telescopes from renowned American makers Alvan Clark of Cambridgeport, Massachusetts and a 4-inch brass refracting telescope by Henry Fitz of New York City valued at £2,000-3,000.