The story behind the plaque: remembering Declan Murray

Have you ever taken your seat in our auditorium and noticed a little plaque? At Turner Sims, we offer the opportunity to Name a Seat. Many audience members have chosen this way to honour a special occasion or remember a friend or loved one. Each plaque has a very personal and special story behind it – and this is just one of them.

This blog post has been written by Declan’s friends and family:


The curtain came down on his life just over two years ago.
But now it’s time for Declan – our brother – to take centre-stage…
Take his place in the ‘spotlight’ he so often shied away from during his 55+ years of life.
As a family – we remember him for his love of art and music.
In his younger days – it was his keen eye for shape AND structure that led him to produce amazingly ‘real’ pictures – just from memory.
Complex pencilled depictions of ‘planes, trains, and automobiles’…
Giant cruise and cargo ships…
Even cityscapes as detailed as any photograph.
Dec had an untapped talent that could easily have led to a career in engineering … draftsmanship … who-knows-what.
But – as we were to find out – he developed in to somebody just as multi-dimensional as his artwork.
The guitar particularly struck a chord with him.
The strings of that instrument a metaphor for the many strings to his own bow.
Since passing, we have learned so much about Dec.
The causes he cared for…
AND the people he fought for.
If ever there was a case of: Don’t judge a book by its cover…
Dec was it!
He loved Bob Dylan.
And as Dylan once said:
‘Inspiration is hard to come by … you have to take it where you find it.’
We found it in Dec!
His friends outline that perfectly – so read on!

In early August 2022, family and friends held a commemoration in Turner Sims auditorium to dedicate a seat plaque for Declan Murray who tragically died in a road accident 2 years ago last month. It was a dignified turnout of remembrance with poetry, anecdotes and a video of the event for many others who could not attend. Turner Sims was an appropriate venue because Declan was a keen supporter of folk music, debates, literature, philosophy and many other events held in the concert hall, a man of multiple interests, indeed a polymath.

Declan started as a fan of folk icons Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins and Joan Baez, strumming songs on his guitar from their songbooks. Gerry Garcia, David Grisman, Bob Dylan and Nic Jones were similarly honoured (with myself playing harmonica) in the back garden of his flat or busking for beer money in Southampton precinct joined occasionally by ‘Dave-the-Hat’ on folk guitar.

Later he became a listening fan of contemporary folk greats Kate Rusby at the old Gantry, then many Kathryn Tickell, Eliza Carthy and Cara Dillon gigs (his last) at Turner Sims.

As regards debate, at closure of one Turner Sims presentation on Climate Change by Professor Iain Stewart, I recall that Declan legged it down to the stage to challenge a controversial argument on nuclear power by the celebrity who thought he was about to be mugged by a gang of four. At different times, a group of us attended lectures at Turner Sims on Ecology, Biodiversity, Rio Earth Summit, Literature (Edward Said, John Berger), Human Genome Project (ie. Scientific Reductionism), Feminism, Big Pharma and WMD (Nuclear, Chemical, Biological); all with audience participation which Declan enthusiastically threw himself into. Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, he’d got tickets for the lecture ‘Plagues Throughout History’, held at Turner Sims some years earlier, such was his prescience and thirst for knowledge. After a presentation by Ellen MacArthur (the famous Round-the-World yachtswoman) he remained seated while she insisted to a shamefaced Declan in front of the whole audience that he could never become a sailor if he kept being late for the tide (we set him up for this).

Declan has now sailed off into the sunset knowing that time and tide wait for no man!

Find out how you can Name a Seat here

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