Although the human faces of Murray & Lyons have changed over the years, the firm and its personnel have been intimately involved with the legal and social life of the Cairns district since before the turn of the 20th Century.
The story of Cairns law firm Murray & Lyons began with the arrival of Charles Bedell Lilley in Cairns in early 1899. Lilley was the second son of Sir Charles Lilley, who held many prominent positions in Colonial Queensland in the 1890's, including Premier of Queensland, Member of the Legislative Assembly, Attorney General and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland.
Charles Bedell Lilley was admitted to practice as a solicitor in September, 1883. Before he set up practice in Cairns, Lilley practiced law in Brisbane. The first record of his practice in Cairns is 13 May 1899.
On 14 May 1906, Abijah Murray joined Lilley as a partner, and the practice became known as Lilley and Murray.
Murray had been admitted as a solicitor in December 1897. Before arriving in Cairns, Murray practiced as a solicitor and notary public at Thursday Island for eight years. In commenting on the establishment of the partnership between Lilley and Murray, The Cairns Morning Post said the firm would undoubtedly, secure their share of business in this town and district.
While most of the legal work was mundane, Lilley and Murray acted in several significant cases in the district. In 1909 Abi Murray travelled to Geraldton (Innisfail) to act on behalf of several sugar mill hands who were summonsed for alleged breach of contract.
He was also engaged to act on behalf of the Great Northern Company, a mining company that was accused by E.G. Theodore in the State Parliament of corruption.
Lilley and Murray were retained as solicitors to the Cairns Harbour Board after the Board was established in 1906. In addition to offering general legal advice, Lilley and Murray represented the Board in many legal actions. The firm continued to act for the Cairns Harbour Board for nearly 75 years.
Abi Murray led a busy social life. He was a member of the Masonic fraternity in North Queensland, holding many positions including Grand Inspector of Masonic Workshops and representative of the Grand Lodge of Illinois. He was a keen lawn bowler and was a founding member of the Cairns Bowls Club. He was involved with the Cairns Jockey Club where he acted as a committeeman. Murray was also a Lieutenant in H Company in the local militia, and advocated universal military training.
Abijah Murray suffered a great loss in March, 1911, when the ship, Yongala, was lost with all passengers and crew while sailing from Brisbane to Cairns. Murray's wife, Minna, and their four children were aboard the Yongala. The children were Ian (6), Alister (5), Jessie (3) and Ailsa Mary (8 weeks). Minna had travelled to Sydney to have her latest baby and was returning home. An Aboriginal maid who was assisting Minna, Mary Linedale, also perished. Her husband worked as Murray's man-servant.
After the loss of his family, Murray went south for some time. He returned to Cairns in August, 1912 and, in December, 1913, married Hilda Mary Sydes in the Cairns Presbyterian Church.
A notice in The Cairns Post in April, 1915, advised the dissolution of the partnership of Lilley and Murray. Lilley had been suffering poor health for some time and decided to live in Brisbane. A Deed of Dissolution to end the partnership was issued on 24 May, 1915. For some time after this, Murray advertised only under his own name.
In November, 1915, Murray was ordered to proceed to Enoggera Barracks to serve in the army. While he was away, he arranged for Herman H. Marsland to take over his practice. Before he left Cairns, Murray was farewelled by the Cairns Jockey Club and the Cairns Bowls Club. The members of both organisations well knew Murray's addiction to tobacco, and he was given a case of pipes at each farewell party. Lieutenant Murray left Cairns on the Arrawatta to travel to England.
After he returned from the war, Murray went into partnership with H.H. Marsland. The partnership of Murray and Marsland endured until about 1918, when Marsland left the firm.
In March 1927, an advertisement appeared in The Cairns Post for Murray and Bennett, Solicitors. Joseph Bennett came from a Cairns family and passed his solicitor's examination in Brisbane in 1907. He set up practice in the A.M.P. building in Cairns in 1910.
He had acted as a junior partner with Lilley and Murray before going south to practice but returned to Cairns in 1912 and carried on a sole practice until he joined Murray.
Abijah Murray died in the Cairns District Hospital on 11 December, 1932, and was buried in the Cairns Cemetery. His wife, Hilda Mary, died at Bondi in Sydney in January, 1963.
Rupert George Young took over the practice in early 1933 and practiced as Murray & Young until on 2 March, 1934 Hugh Bernard Lyons took over the practice and changed the name to Murray & Lyons.
Lyons began his legal practice as an articled clerk to Murray. After he took over the practice, Lyons acted as a sole practitioner under the firm name, Murray & Lyons. Lyons died on 10 July, 1975, at Cairns and is buried in the Cairns Cemetery.
While Hugh Lyons operated as a solicitor in Cairns for many years, there is little information available about his life. Those who knew him agree that he was a very quiet, good-natured man.
Ignazio Sciacca purchased the practice on 1 July, 1973. The firm's name was then changed to Murray Lyons & Co. John Campbell McCallum was admitted to partnership on 16 July, 1974 and would remain a partner until 30 June 1992.
John was followed by Douglas Hector Hodgson, who became a partner on 9 August, 1978. Doug had worked as Mining Registrar and Clerk of the Court at Herberton and was admitted as solicitor on 20 June, 1972. Doug would become one of the firm's longest serving partners, finally retiring on 31 December 2004.
The early 1980's was a turbulent time for the practice with a number of new partners entering and exiting. On 1 October, 1980, Ignazio Sciacca retired as a partner, and Leo Patrick Luton White and Donna Maree McCallum were admitted to partnership. Leo White retired as a partner on 23 April, 1982 and became the first resident barrister practising in Cairns. Donna McCallum retired on 29 May, 1984 to later become a magistrate at Toowoomba.
The current Partnership comprises of Chris Wright who became a partner in May 1987, Jamie McAlister entered the Partnership in July 1998 and Martin Treston joined in January 2005.