Thursday, April 19, 2012

Murray Rose

Good to hear that the The Rainbow Club, who run the Malabar Magic swim in Sydney on the 3rd Sundee in February, will rename the event the Murray Rose Malabar Magic, after their patron and swim organiser who died last Sundee.

Murray was no longer a young bloke -- 73 -- but that doesn't make his loss any easier. We were one of that generation who grew up revering Murray Rose. His celebrity from the mid-50s was all-embracing, and it proved to be enduring because it was based on substance of character. He was no passing, sporting fad. He was every boy's role model, a man with dignity, bearing, a grace, a presence that inspired respect and admiration, and he remained himself throughout those years of adulation. When we were littlies in the '50s in Newcastle, we never dreamt that, one day, we'd meet Murray Rose, that we'd come to know him and to regard him as a friend. One of the glories of life, for us, was that that's what happened.

Murray was a very private fellow. He'd suffered for a year or so with a troublesome foot that had interfered with his swimming and his capacity to get about comfortably. When he received his diagnosis of leukaemia around the beginning of this year, he set about carefully making arrangements, but discreetly. He called us and asked us to remove reference to him leading this year's tour to the Dardanelles in August. He wouldn't tell us why, apart from saying he wasn't well. When we altered one section of the website but we'd neglected also to amend the downloadable information document, Murray called back and drew our attention to it. "I won't be going to the Dardanelles," Murray told us. "And I won't be at the Malabar Magic, either." That's what alarmed us. At that point, the Malabar Magic was only a couple of weeks away, yet he already knew that he couldn't be there.

We heard he also headed down, about that time, to North Bondi surf club, where he was a member, and cleared out his locker. He swam regularly from North Bondi, several times a week, point to point, with cobbers.

Which raises the other thing, at least, that we reckon should happen now: Murray loved North Bondi; he was an eastern suburbs lad and a North Bondi man. North Bondi has two swims, The Roughwater in January and the North Bondi Classic, in February. We'd love to see North Bondi SLSC rename its second swim to The Murray Rose Classic. And maybe as a further tribute to Murray, they should team up with The Rainbow Club and offer combo entries to the Murray Rose Classic on the second Sunday in February, and to the Murray Rose Malabar Magic, on the third Sunday in February, offering a special prize to someone who does both, The Murray Rose Memorial Award. It should go to an ocean swimmer of any age who exemplifies the character, the values that made Murray Rose such a special person.

We -- by "we", we mean "us more mature Australians" -- we won't need awards to remember Murray Rose, but it will help our kids and their kids to know of Murray and the contribution he made to us all, by his achievements and by his example. A lot of younger swimmers may not have heard of Murray, or may not appreciate the role he played in Stra'an swimming. We recall a story Murray told of a swim a few years back. Murray entered this swim online (not through, and the organisers, apparently not knowing him, figured he was a lady who'd entered his name the wrong way around. So they changed him from Murray Rose, in the Male Codgers division, to Rose Murray, a lady. Murray said later, "I won both the Male and Female divisions that day".

A wonderful, wonderful man of grace, style, culture and substance. Our thoughts are with Murray's wife, Jodi, and their son, Trevor.

The best piece we read about Murray in the meeja over the past few days -- there's been an awful lot of dashed-off guff -- was the Herald's obituary, run on Tuesday, April 17. But while it stood out from the other pieces we read, it still skated all too glibly over that vast bulk of Murray's life between his swimming career and his return to Australia in 1994. Apart from his swimming, Murray had a career in TV in the US and played roles in a couple of movies. He also was a senior marketing executive (we thought he'd been Marketing Director) of the LA Lakers, one of the two biggest sporting franchises in the world (the other being Manchester United). Maybe someone, one day, will write a definitive piece. For the Herald's obit... click here

We ran a story in our email newsletter when we knew Murray wasn't well, indeed was seriously unwell, but it wasn't for us to announce this to the world. We just reckon all Australians should know how wonderful a person Murray was. A bit out of left field, perhaps, but it's not surprising that Murray married a ballerina. He was, as they say, a fine style of a bloke.

(A version of this story appeared in our email newsletter of Thursday, April 19. We've had a few responses to it, so we figured we should post it as a blob, too, so that y'all can have your say, too. If you want to add your thoughts, click the Comments link, below.)


  1. A different and refreshing slant on Murray. A true icon. After all, he was from Bondi, if "a little north"

  2. So sad to see Murray depart from us...... but he will live on.
    As the 17/18 year old with all the dreams of being as good or better than our hero, there were many of us who trained so hard. We all wanted what he had, we all wanted to do what he had done, and I should include John Konrads in the same sentence.

    Trouble was, we were all "smarter" than Murray. The papers wrote of his seaweed diet before he swam, obviously a salad or such. The dreamers, us others, I recall so clearly having big T Bone steaks, eggs, tomatoes and the works, all "to make us go fast".
    I always wanted to talk to Murray about this and now it's too late. I wanted to ask how hard he laughed at us carrying all that meat with us in our races and for the next couple of days digesting the same.

    I recall a few years ago travelling to the Palmy swim with (Maurice Westerweller) and Murray. We parked the car and walked, and I think back… Whatever the esteem one is held in, he was just an ordinary guy who loved to swim, "and so say all of us".

    John Koorey

  3. To us kids of the sixties Murray Rose sits alongside greats such as Dawn Fraser, Midget Farrelly, Lionel Rose and others as heroes of sport and life as an Australian. While some of us may have aspired but never reached the heights of these greats I'm sure we all learned from them. The message that passed to us was that sport and activity is a good thing to do, it's enjoyable, challenging, frustrating and maybe you will have the occasional glimmer of excellence.
    A few years back I was swimming at Cook Phillip Pool in Sydney and Murray Rose was in the lane next to me and he was lapping me, I don't remember how many laps we was doing to mine but I do remember being passed by someone whom I have held in high regard since I was a 5 year old, it can't get any better than that.

  4. Murray was the first sports star I became aware of as a kid... in the 50's they used to have sports cards you could collect and his was the first i collected. Later i recall the mystique around his diet and seaweed and things then he was off the radar for so long , obviously being very successful in the US. Clearly and wonderful , humble, remarkable man who gave back to a sport which helped define him. Vale Murray Rose.

    Piker Pete
    Nimes Fr.

  5. There's only two people from the senior wave who I've seen passing me (from 3 minutes behind) and when I draughted couldn't last 20 metres. Murray Rose and John Koorey. Murray's generosity, when we talked about John one time, Murray was amazed at John's ocean swimming record. You can see what John thinks above.
    At the funeral Jodi's eulogy was truly wonderful - what a woman.
    And after Dawn Fraser was with Trevor Rose for 5 or 6 minutes talking unnoticed in the middle of hundreds - so moving.

  6. Thanks Paul for your insight into Murray Rose - an inspirational man.

  7. Paul - thanks for providing a more complete picture of the man and legend. I remember him from when I was young but was thrilled to meet him at the Rainbow swim at Malabar one year. I had a problem with my registration and Murray intervened in a warm manner to help my (trivial) matter be solved. He was always a sports star - and a gentleman. He will be missed - but as these comments and many of the conversations held at the beach and pools in Sydney - he will not be forgotten.
    Vale Murray.
    - and thanks again Paul for your excellent capture of the know and unknown dimensions of Murray Rose, well done!

  8. Cheryl CrosslandMay 25, 2012 at 10:30 AM

    just wanted to say I read the report from Tony Johnston (see on the great Murray Rose and wanted to say what a fantastic insight to the great man. I'm sorry I never met him myself, although Im sure he was at an ocean swim where I was...... Anyway, although this reading made me sad, it also makes me realise that there really are so many great people out there we never know about until they pass. I luv Australian Story and I hope to see an episode on Murray Rose one day.

    Many thanks for sharing.


Please use the drop down menu, Comment as, to attach your name to your blog.