North Yorkshire will always have a very special place in leading businessman and philanthropist Sir Bob Murray’s heart.
Sir Bob, who has a house in Crayke, near Easingwold, has spoken of his love of the county in his autobiography I’d Do it All Again, which has just been published.
The book takes readers from the streets of 1950s steel-making town Consett, where he left school with just one O level, to his first steps on the career ladder by becoming an accountant, before launching start his own kitchen business Spring Ram, which was one of the great success stories of the 1980s.
Sir Bob first moved to North Yorkshire in 1968 when he was 22, working for furniture manufacturer George Moore in Wetherby and living in Harrogate.
“North Yorkshire had a very formative and crucial influence on my career,” he explained. “There were no jobs for me in my hometown of Consett in the North East and I had to move, despite being part of a very loving family.
“The move was the making of me. Accountancy opened many doors and enabled me to gain the experience and knowledge to co-found Spring Ram, which, in turn, led to the foundation of my two successful property and kitchen companies today, Sterling Capitol in Leeds and Omega in Thorne, near Doncaster, respectively.”
Despite his entrepreneurial success in Yorkshire, Sir Bob is still best known as the former chairman of Sunderland AFC and the visionary behind the club’s Stadium of Light, Academy and Beacon of Light – the latter is a sports, community and education facility in Sunderland which opened in 2018.
The Foundation of Light works with up to 20,000 young people and families every year, encouraging parents and grandparents to stay both physically and mentally active to inspire the next generation to do the same.
What is less well known is the debt, which Sir Bob readily acknowledges, that he owes to York City for some of the most successful times in the history of Sunderland AFC.
“The best manager I ever had when I was chairman of Sunderland was Denis Smith, who I persuaded to move to Roker Park after a very successful, record-breaking time at York City.
“Denis signed some superb York players, notably Marco Gabbiadini, John Byrne and John MacPhail, who were all instrumental in some of the greatest times we had at Sunderland.”
Sir Bob remains very good friends with Marco Gabbiadini, as well as with famous Yorkshire vet’s James Herriot’s children James and Rosie.
“James was born in Sunderland and was a passionate supporter of our club. We got to know each other very well over the years and I am delighted that his wonderful legacy lives on, with the enduring popularity of his books and the excellent current Channel 5 series All Creatures Great and Small.”
Sir Bob’s links to York were strengthened when his three children, Alex, Nicole and James all went to Bootham School on the city.
“Bootham gave all three of my children a superb education, and a love of North Yorkshire and Alex now lives in Harrogate with her partner and three children. Meanwhile my wife Lady Murray and I have a deep affection for our home in Crayke and the beautiful countryside nearby.”.
Apart from Sir Bob’s immense contribution to Sunderland, he also masterminded the development of the new Wembley Stadium and St George’s Park. He is also Chancellor of Leeds Beckett University where, as a young man, he took to life-changing accountancy degree.
In I’d Do It All Again, he recounts interactions with a wide cast of characters ranging from Len Shackleton, Brian Clough, Lawrie McMenemy, Peter Reid, Niall Quinn and even former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for whom he had to act a human shield.
It is a tale of a remarkable rise from a down-at-heel steel town. Of setbacks and challenges on and off pitch and triumphs in boardrooms and stadiums around the country at a time when football was undergoing a revolution. It is a tale in which North Yorkshire plays a crucial part.
- All proceeds from sales of I’d Do it All Again will go to the Foundation of Light
- Sold exclusively through the publishers here, the Foundation of Light and Sunderland AFC