A Man For All Seasons

 

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Eric Murray was a well known sailing teacher in Majorca who taught thousands of people how to handle motor and sailing boats over the years that he lived here in the Port Andratx area. He was a much loved and respected man, well known for his laid back and friendly attitude to everyone that he met. During the winter months you could often catch up with him having a coffee and watching the sunset with his St Bernard dog Remy by his side and at least one or two people having a chat. He was a great teacher, an adored husband, grand dad, and father, and he was my one and only Dad.

Eric was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, the only child of Margaret and James, in 1944. He met his first wife, Maureen, my mother, when he was 15, although he lied and told her he was 16. They nearly didn’t make it past the first date as he took her to the movies and embarrassed her by laughing very loudly throughout a Norman Wisdom film. She recalled recently that Eric decided that he wanted to join the RAF when he left school as he believed he would be able to take his German Shepherd dog, Lance with him into service, but when he went to the recruitment office to sign up it was closed. He eventually moved to London following her as she had been posted there by the civil service, and he joined the Metropolitan Police as a cadet. The first time was short-lived and he left. He worked briefly as a salesman for a business making vibrating armchairs, but as he didn’t make any sales, returned to the police.  Whilst a cadet he and his friend Rory were in Soho one night and rescued some “ladies of the night” from a burning building utilising a shop blind to help the women escape from an upper floor, winning themselves bravery medals for their actions. The details were never given to his mother Margaret due to the awkward questions that might have come about as to why he was in Soho in the first place…

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Eventually he graduated and found his way to the Special Escort Group which was a motorcycle division of the Metropolitan Police. The SEG provided motorbike outriders to such official events as state visits, protection of the Royal family, escorting money to and from the Royal Mint, accompanying dangerous or at risk prisoners to and from court, and also giving public displays of their precision and skill in handling the heavy motorbikes. Eric spent many years as a Sergeant in the division, always saying that he didn’t want to rise up the ranks of the Police Force as it meant he would no longer be able ride on a daily basis. He got to know many members of the Royal family, his favourites at the time being Princess Diana who he had a genuine soft spot for, and Princess Margaret who he found to be hilarious. One of his colleagues recently remembered that Eric would insist on them all being perfectly turned out even when it was raining, and would not allow them to wear the regulation waterproofed trousers as he had deemed them unsuitable attire for important state occasions.

Off duty he didn’t let the grass grow under his feet and he was always busy doing or learning something new. I personally remember being very impressed with him learning how to cook excellent and authentic Indian food from an original book by Madhur Jaffrey in the 1980s back when Dads, and in fact, men, didn’t really do that sort of thing. When he turned 40 he decided to learn to speak French, ran the London Marathon, and a couple more as well, and bet a friend of his £100 that he could stop smoking. He won the bet and never smoked again. He was also an ardent supporter of Greenpeace and an advocate for the World Wildlife Fund, something which all of his children continue to share.  His deep connection to the sea also won him the affectionate nickname of “Grandad Seaside” given to him by his grandchildren.

 

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Eric’s passions ran large, but one of the most enduring ones had to be the sea. Whether he was in it, under it or on it, there wasn’t a week where he wouldn’t in some way be interacting with it. Firstly he learnt to scuba dive, and along the way became the President of the London Branch of the British Sub Aqua Club. This meant many weekends at the English seaside and some entertaining and fun times with a large social circle, it also meant regular training sessions in a chilly swimming pool in North London to which he would take all three of his children to ensure that they were swimming to his standards. Any family holidays were by a sea in order for him to go diving and it was on one of these holidays in Malta that he rented a small sailing dinghy. He and I went out on it and he decided that the next thing to learn would be to sail properly. That was in 1979. He had had his first taste of sailing when he was 14, when he was selected by his school to attend the Outward Bound school at Gordonstoun in Scotland. I think this experience inspired him when he was older to support such initiatives as The Ocean Youth Club. But sailing in Scotland was a very different experience from the glistening and welcoming waters of the Mediterranean, and he instigated his plan to learn to sail as soon as he returned home to the family house in Bushey, Hertfordshire where we lived for many years.  A boat, a trimaran called Tryagen of Hamble, was purchased almost immediately and family holidays stopped being in the Med, and moved to the Purbeck coast where he kept his boat at Poole Yacht Club. He rapidly became the person who fellow sailors would ask for advice which he would dish out with kindness, patience and humour. But he didn’t only excel with sailboats, Eric also became a World Record Holder in Endurance motor yachts, sharing the title with the rest of the Brownridge Team for the fastest circumnavigation of the British Isles in a 28 foot rib in 63 hours and 32 minutes. They held the honour from 1993 to 2001, beating the Royal Navy’s previous record. Eric studied relentlessly to pass all of his Royal Yachting Association exams and eventually qualified as an instructor. This was to stand him in good stead when he retired from the police force in 1995. He set off on a long sailing journey with his son Campbell and some other crew, crossing the Atlantic and spending time in the Caribbean, this to be the first of several trips around the area.

In 1996 he separated from Maureen his first wife. After a brief stint as a private investigator and as a motorbike taxi for Virgin Airlines he came across a sailing school in Majorca called Solaris which needed an instructor and so he moved to the island, and didn’t look back. Eric soon became a fixture in the Port of Andratx and around the Club de Vela. First working for the previous owners of the school, and then several years ago buying it outright and running it as his own business. Typical of him he then set about learning to speak Spanish and reached a good level of competence. He loved Majorca and after meeting and marrying his second wife and soulmate, Trudi, he lived with her and her children in their house in the mountains very happily for many years.

Eric’s other passions were his cars, and he was an active member of the Classic Car Club here on the island enjoying touring around with Trudi, and occasionally picking his granddaughter Gigi up from school in one of them, much to the amazement of her school friends and teachers. Eric still loved to travel, going to many exciting and beautiful places, firstly with his family, and on his own, and latterly with Trudi who shared his passion discovering new experiences. He also continued to explore ideas which excited him, most recently starting to learn to fly a microlight plane and in the process making some headway to finally realising his dream of the RAF from many years ago. He was still planning to complete his pilot’s license when he was given a diagnosis of serious illness only recently.

Eric handled his death in the same manner that he lived his life, with style, courage and a sense of humour. He passed away on the evening of Sunday October 2nd with his “All Girl Team” around him: Trudi, his step daughter Georgia, and myself. He had been visited during the day by his ex wife Maureen, and by his close friend, Captain and colleague Dennis Evans who will continue to run Solaris Sailing School with the same standards and attention to detail that Eric had made it famous for. He also saw some of his children: Lewis, Campbell, Bradley (Bini) and Erica, Maxwell and Stephanie and their good friend Tom who he even high fived.

He wouldn’t want us to be sad at his death, he’d shrug his shoulders and say “That’s life”. Move on, don’t let it get you down and try your hardest to make the best out of everything. Even when the waves were crashing into the cockpit of the boat back in the days when my brothers and I would be sailing with our mother Maureen, he would yell “Super Sail” at the top of his voice whilst the rest of us were clinging to life jackets and ringing the coastguard.

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My dad, Eric was an exceptional person in many ways, and inspired many people to follow their dreams: regardless of your age or circumstances there is always a way. He would always tell me “The harder you work the luckier you get”, I hope that even after his death he will still continue to inspire everyone to listen to their hearts, try hard and enjoy life to the fullest. He will certainly continue to inspire me.

I know from the huge amount of private messages that my family has been receiving how many, many friends and fans, ex students, fellow officers and buddies he had, and that he was universally respected and loved. Eric leaves three natural children (Victoria, Lewis, Campbell), four step children (Jackson, Georgia, Bradley, Maxwell), six children-in-law (Oliver, Rachel, Jodi, Fiona, Erica, Stephanie), six grandchildren (Chloe, Callum, Alfie, Georgina, Leith, Arwyn) and one more (Wilson) on the way.

Eric did not want to have a sad, traditional funeral and instead Trudi and the entire family plan to have a big party which will fall on his birthday next March 2017. Anyone who knew him is very welcome to attend to celebrate and share their stories about his life.

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