Historic Quintuplets birth marked by County

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Descendants of the Murray Quintuplets attended a special ceremony in their honour on Feb. 2 in Council Chambers. 

PICTOU, N.S. – An historic Pictou County birth was recently commemorated in the presence of family and the local community.

The Municipality of Pictou County hosted a plaque unveiling Saturday, Feb. 2 in its Council Chamber in honour of the Murray Quintuplets who were born on Feb. 15, 1880 to Adam and Maria (Rankin) Murray in Hillside, Pictou County.

quints8Warden Robert Parker, left, and District 9 Coun. Peter Boyles unveil a plaque dedicated to the birth of the Murray Quintuplets. 

The arrival of the three girls and two boys, all weighing less than 4lbs each, marked the first recorded birth of quintuplets in Canada.  Unfortunately, only three of the children lived for a portion of the first day with another passing the next day.  The smallest and first born died two days after being born.  Mrs. Murray gave birth to three other children after the quintuplets, for a total of 15 children. 

About 40 descendants of the Murray Quintuplets attended the ceremony, along with Municipal councillors as well as Provincial and Federal politicians.  

County Warden Robert Parker said the importance of Saturday’s unveiling was not just about remembering the quintuplets in 2019, but ensuring their historic birth is known for years to come.

“We never want to forget the value of history. There are people who don’t see a lot of value in it and a lot of people who do,” he said. “Fifty years down the road, someone coming into this building will see a plaque on wall and read it and it will be of interest for them.  This is not just for today, but for generations to remember these things.”  

Local historians Clyde Macdonald and Philip MacKenzie presented District 9 Coun. Peter Boyles with a photo of the quintuplets which Boyles will hang in a new community centre being built in the Hillside area.

Boyles brought the idea of the plaque unveiling forward to Council after speaking with Cory Hartling who had done considerable research about the Murray Quintuplets and suggested that their birth be commemorated.

quints4Clyde Macdonald, left, and Philip MacKenzie, right, present Coun. Peter Boyles with a photo of the Murray Quintuplets. 

Macdonald, who has written several books on Pictou County history, shared some facts about the Quintuplets birth during the ceremony and said it was not uncommon in the 1880s to have babies delivered by midwives, but in this case, the Murray family had one of the best physicians in the area.

He said Dr. William Fraser, originally from New Glasgow, was a graduate of Glasgow University in Scotland where he was the top of his class of 500 students.  Since there were no hospitals in the County at the time, he delivered the babies at the Murray’s farmhouse with the help of a pharmacist James Jackson.  

Following the babies’ death, Barnum & Bailey Circus wanted to take possession of the bodies of the five children so they could be mummified and put on display around the United States.

“The Murrays said ‘no’ and after Barnum & Bailey Circus wanted to get them, they wanted to make sure the burial remained a secret.  So, they are probably on the farm somewhere, but the exact location is only known to God.”   quints5

The Murray Quintuplet’s plaque, pictured here, will be hung in the foyer of the Municipality of Pictou County’s administration building at 46 Municipal Drive, Pictou County.