Ruby Florence Murray, one of the most popular singers in the United Kingdom and Ireland in the 1950s, is born on the Donegal Road in south Belfast on March 29, 1935. In 1955 alone, she secures seven Top 10 UK hit singles.
The distinctive sound of Murray’s voice is partly the result of a throat operation in early childhood. She tours as a child singer and first appears on television at the age of 12, however, laws governing children performing, Murray has to delay her start in the entertainment industry. She returns to Belfast and full-time education until she reaches 14 years of age.
Spotted by producer Richard Afton, Murray is signed to Columbia and her first single, Heartbeat, reaches No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart in December 1954. Afton offers her the position of resident singer on the BBC‘s Quite Contrary television show, replacing Joan Regan. Softly, Softly, her second single, reaches number one in early 1955. That same year Murray sets a pop-chart record by having five hits in the Top Twenty in one week, a feat unmatched until the emergence of Madonna in the 1980s.
The 1950s is a busy period for Murray, during which she has her own television show, stars at the London Palladium with Norman Wisdom, appears in a Royal Command Performance, and tours the world. During a 52-week period, starting in 1955, Murray constantly has at least one single in the UK charts, this being at a time when only a Top 20 is listed.
Murray appears with Frankie Howerd and Dennis Price in her only film role, as Ruby in a 1956 farce, A Touch of the Sun. A couple of hits follow later in the decade. Goodbye Jimmy, Goodbye, a No. 10 hit in 1959, is her final appearance in the charts. EMI puts together a compilation album of her hits on CD in 1989, including songs that are regularly featured in her act, Mr. Wonderful, Scarlet Ribbons, and It’s the Irish in Me. They update this with the release of EMI Presents The Magic Of Ruby Murray in 1997 and a triple album, Anthology — The Golden Anniversary Collection, in 2005, the 50th anniversary of her peak successes on the charts.
A play about Murray’s life, Ruby, written by the Belfast playwright Marie Jones, opens at the Group Theatre in Belfast in April 2000.
Although her days as a major star gradually diminish, Murray continues performing until close to the end of her life. She spends her last couple of years in Asprey’s Nursing Home, often delighting her carers with a song. She dies of liver cancer, at the age of 61, on December 17, 1996 in Torquay after a long struggle with alcoholism.