Belfast-born Ruby Murray has two singles, “I’ll Come When You Call” and “Evermore,” in the UK Singles Chart on October 22, 1955. Her much quoted achievement is that she has five hits in the Top 20 in a single week in March 1955, a feat only matched by pop singer Madonna four decades later.
Murray is born near the Donegall Road in south Belfast on March 29, 1935, the youngest child in a Protestant family. She has surgery at six weeks of age due to swollen glands, and as a result, has a very husky voice. She tours as a child singer and first appears on television at the age of twelve, having been spotted by producer Richard Afton. Owing to laws governing children performing, she has to delay her start in the entertainment industry. She returns to Belfast and full-time education until she is fourteen.
After being again spotted by Afton, Murray is signed to Columbia Records 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, to replace Joan Regan. “Softly, Softly“, her second single, reaches number one in early 1955. That same year she sets a pop chart record by having five hits in the Top Twenty in one week, a feat unmatched for many years. In 2014, the Guinness Book of World Records issues three certificates confirming that at the date of issue, nobody has beaten this record, although it is now shared with three other singers.
The 1950s are 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 (1955), and tours the world. In a period of 52 weeks, starting on December 3, 1954 and lasting until the end of November 1955, she constantly has at least one single in the UK charts, this at a time when only a Top 20 is listed.
Murray appears in her only film role, as Ruby, in A Touch of the Sun, a 1956 farce with Frankie Howerd and Dennis Price. 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.
In 1957, while working in Blackpool, Murray meets Bernie Burgess, a member of a successful television and recording vocal quartet, the Four Jones Boys. Shortly afterwards she leaves Northern Ireland to marry him and live with him in England. The couple includes a song-and-dance segment in her act during the 1960s.
Murray struggles with alcoholism for most of her life and this contributes to the breakdown of her marriage in 1974. The divorce is finalised in 1976 and she moves to Torquay to live with an old friend, Ray Lamar, a former stage dancer and theatre impresario, who is 18 years her senior. They marry in 1991 and spend the evening with a small party of friends and family at an Italian restaurant in Babbacombe.
Although her days as a major star are long over, Murray continues performing until close to the end of her life. Spending her last couple of years in Asprey’s Nursing Home, she often delights her carers with a song, and is visited by her friend Max Bygraves. She dies of liver cancer at the age of 61 on December 17, 1996.