Monday, August 18, 2014

Going, going...

Auctions in Chennai bring to mind only one name: Murray. That name was borne by a gentleman who, in January 1915, was appointed as a judge of the Madras High Court. Three other names he had, for he was fully Sir Victor Murray Coutts-Trotter; and it took him another nine years to become the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court. During his tenure as the Chief Justice, he learnt that the firm Dowden & Co., auctioneers, was shutting down and moving back to England. The courts needed an auction house and Sir Victor looked around for one. He finally sounded out S. Vedantam, who was working with Dowden & Co., about the need to set up one. 

Vedantam took the justice's approval to name the firm after him. And so was born, in 1927, the firm Murray & Company. Whether the Hon'ble Justice had any stake in it is unclear, but very soon, Murray & Co., was appointed as the Receivers for the Madras Presidency. With business growing, operating out of a small office on Thambu Chetty Street, near the Court, was not good enough. A branch was opened on Mount Road, within the grounds of Kushaldas Estate. 

That branch, was in these premises, tucked in behind the LIC building. A year ago, the building was deemed unsafe for occupation and that, probably more than anything else, forced the firm to move away to Mylapore. Over the 87 years of its existence, Murray & Co. has handled several auctions, both public and private. They have sold a hospital, a king's residence, army surpluses... pretty much everything that is fit to be sold. Given a few months, they would probably have been able to find a buyer for it themselves!

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