Obituary: GP with infectious laugh that 'turned heads' dies aged 77

Dr James (Jim) Murray was known as having “a big smile above a bow tie”

Dr James (Jim) Murray was known as having “a big smile above a bow tie” - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

The humble dicky bow has traditionally been associated with GPs. And for one much-loved Norfolk family doctor it was very much part of the uniform and saw him described as "a big smile above a bow tie".

Now, tributes have been paid to James Robert Murray, who has died at the age of 77.

Dr Murray, known by all as “Jim”, is described as having had an "outstanding laugh” that could turn heads.   

Dr Murray wearing one of his famous bow ties

Dr Murray wearing one of his famous bow ties - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Formerly of Milverton, Somerset, and Gressenhall, near Dereham, he was born in Bristol on June 7, 1944 - the day after the Normandy Landings. Dr Murray trained to be a doctor at the city’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital and studied medicine at Charing Cross Hospital, London, where he graduated in 1967. 

Having started training initially as an obstetrician and gynaecologist, he became a GP before moving to mid-Norfolk in 1969. It was his time spent as a doctor in Gressenhall and Dereham for six years that many former patients and colleagues will remember him for. 

He and his wife Sue, a Westminster nurse, met in London in 1981 and they married in 1983. They were parents to James, Victoria, Duncan, Dominic, Thomas and Toby. 

Dr Murray with wife, Sue

Dr Murray with wife, Sue - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Speaking on behalf of the family, his eldest son, James, said: “He was kind, interesting, interested in others, always cheerful, and the life and soul of the party.  

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“He always had time for other people and to share a laugh. In fact, he will be remembered for his extraordinarily infectious laugh and tremendous sense of humour.  

“He was always singing, always cheerful. The head of the family, he had a very positive presence.”  

Dr Murray travelled the world and, as a result, he always had to hand many interesting stories about the people he met, especially in America and Asia. He claimed that Japan was one of the most “magical” places he had ever visited.  

While in Norfolk, he was invited to everything from a local shoot to dressing up as Father Christmas and handing out presents at Dereham's town hall. And with his stethoscope and leather bag in hand, he could often be seen rushing off to see a patient somewhere in the deepest parts of the county in his bright red Triumph Spitfire.  

Dr Murray was a huge rugby fan and became the inaugural chairman of Dereham Rugby Club in 1975. During this time, he was also a police surgeon and Rotary Club member.  

In the late 1970s, he moved to the Netherlands to carry out research and became the scientific director of a pharmaceutical company. At the peak of his career, he co-founded Shire Pharmaceuticals, a company that today employs 23,000 people.  

Dr Murray travelled the world

Dr Murray travelled the world - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Dr Murray never lost his love for Norfolk, and it became the inspiration behind his book Patients, Pills and Partridges: A Country Doctor’s Tales of the 1970s, published under the pseudonym Dr Tom Ferrier in 2020. It summed up much of his life in the area and how he tried, with limited resources, to keep the local community healthy.  

During these years, he also began publishing medical anecdotes relevant to the general public in his regular slot Dr Bayley’s Casebook in Norfolk Fair, while also publishing more scientific articles in publications such as Pulse and the British Medical Journal. 

His life in Nelson’s County marked the beginning of an exciting journey.   

As well as helping him to recover from the death of his week-old son, it supplied him with his first job out of medical school.  

James added: “It gave him a sense of belonging and purpose, taught him to be self-sufficient, and acted as a springboard for an illustrious career in pharmaceuticals.   

“Norfolk was a pivotal experience in his life and his love for it is as visceral as the village signs and huge skies that he describes in his book. He loved Norfolk and its people.”  

Dr Murray pictured during a happy moment - one of many

Dr Murray pictured during a happy moment - one of many - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Dr Murray also loved sailing, boats, and the natural world. On walks, he could recognise every bird and plant.

He said one of his proudest accomplishments was his children and, in turn, they highlighted his “support and kindness through tough times” as their favourite qualities about him as a father.  

“He had an outstanding laugh - one that turned heads," James said. “And he was never seen without a bow-tie. He was once described as a 'big smile above a bow tie’.”  

Dr Murray died on December 5 at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton, Somerset, following a fall in June. As well as his wife and children, he leaves behind eight grandchildren.  

His funeral takes place on January 7 in Somerset. Donations in his memory to Somerset Neurological Rehabilitation Centre via the website Just Giving