Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Burn-Murdoch, John

BURN-MURDOCH, JOHN (1852–1909), lieutenant-colonel, born at Edinburgh on 17 June 1852, was eldest son of William Burn-Murdoch (1822–1878), M.D. Edinburgh, second son of John Burn-Murdoch (1793–1862), of Garlincaber, co. Perth. His mother was Jessie Cecilia, daughter of William Mack. The father's younger brother, James M'Gibbon Burn-Murdoch, was father of Colonel John Francis Burn-Murdoch, C.B., a distinguished cavalry officer. Educated at the Edinburgh Academy, at Nice for a year, and afterwards in London, Burn-Murdoch entered the royal engineers from Woolwich on 2 May 1872. He served in the Afghan war of 1878-80, and was present in the engagement of Charasiab on 6 Oct. 1879 and in the operations round Kabul in December 1879, including the storming of the Asmai Heights, when he was severely wounded while employed in blowing up one of the Afghan forts (Hanna, Second Afghan War, iii. 250). He was mentioned in despatches, 4 May 1880, and received the medal with two clasps.

Burn-Murdoch took part in the Egyptian war of 1882 with the contingent from India under Major-general (Sir) Herbert Taylor Macpherson [q. v.]. The engineers were commanded by Sir James Browne known as 'Buster Browne' (1839–1896), and Burn-Murdoch and (Sir) William Gustavus Nicholson were the two field engineers. Reaching Bombay with his companions on 6 Aug., Burn-Murdoch aided Browne in preparing all the requisite material, and arrived at Suez, where they repaired the roads, local canals, and railways. From Ismailia they reached Kassassin on 11 Sept., and were present at the battle of Tel-el-Kebir on the 13th. Immediately afterwards Burn-Murdoch, with the Indian force, pushed on for some thirty miles to Zagazig, and took a foremost part in seizing the railway there, and General Browne sent a captured train back under Burn-Murdoch to help in the 72nd regiment, six miles off. The brilliant seizure of Zagazig, in which Burn-Murdoch did useful service, deprived the rebels of command of the railway and facilitated the capture of Cairo. He was mentioned in despatches and received the medal with clasp, fifth class of the Medjidieh, and Khedive's star. Burn-Murdoch was promoted captain on 2 May 1884, major on 6 Aug. 1891, and lieut.-colonel on 1 March 1900. Meanwhile he served in India on the state railways, and in 1893 became officer commanding engineer of state railways and subsequently was chief engineer of the Southern Mahratta railways. He retired on an Indian pension on 28 May 1900. He died at Bridge of Leith Cottage, Doune, Perthshire, on 30 Jan. 1909, and was buried in Old Kilmadoch burial ground. He married in August 1889 Maud (d. 1893), widow of William Forster. Burn-Murdoch left no issue. His wife had by her former husband three sons and a daughter.

[Burke's Landed Gentry; Hart's Army List; Official Army List; W. Porter, History of the Corps of Royal Engineers, 1889, ii. 45, 66; J. J. McLeod Innes's Life and Times of General Sir James Browne, 1905, p. 22; Sir J. F. Maurice, The Campaign of 1882 in Egypt, 1908, p. 105; private information.]

H. M. V.