‘Gelignite’ Jack Murray was more than just fast cars, explosions and burning rubber at Uluru. He’s a snapshot of a bygone Australia, and a recent biography looks to shed more light on one of our most enduring characters.
The Big Smoke: How important in terms of our history do you think this book is, and should younger generations know a lot more about Jack Murray?
Phil Murray: I think it was a very interesting period in Australian history, particularly with the Redex trials of 1953-55. Post war they really opened up the country, as this was at a time when people didn’t realise you could hop in the family car and drive around Australia, the trials proved otherwise.
The Big Smoke: You were born in 1954, colloquially known as a Redex baby. Surely that was a massive shadow to grow up in, being the son of Gelignite Jack Murray and the Redex Rallies.
Phil Murray: Often when people discover my heritage, they ask what it was like growing up with Jack. The short answer is different. The long answer is covered the chapter ‘Growing Up With Jack’ which covers everything from his take on sex education “Gelignite” Jack Murray to what cracker night was like in the Murray household.
The Big Smoke: Was it an advantage to be Jack’s son?
Phil Murray: In writing a book you learn more about the subject and being the son of the subject, you also learn a bit about the relationships you missed out on the first time around. When I was a small boy in primary school, Jack was famous so it wasn’t unusual to pick up the papers and see him being chased by the police skiing along the River Thames. You’d go to school the next day and kids would have this to talk about. So, yes. My dad was a hero.
The Big Smoke: Did you ever clash with your father growing up?
Phil Murray: As you get older teenage boys always press the buttons on their fathers, and I was no different. I was a surfie, Jack hated the long hair, so of course, I grew it as long as I could. We locked horns in those days but as I got older our relationship changed yet again. Growing up with Jack was fantastic.
The Big Smoke: What is Jack’s legacy?
Phil Murray: Laughter. When the boomers speak of Jack, they smile.
The Big Smoke: Is there anyone else to your knowledge that comes close to matching Jack and his antics?
Phil Murray: No. I can’t think of anyone who accomplished what he did while wearing a gorilla mask and hurling gelignite out of the car window.
The Big Smoke: On Jack’s foibles, especially the story of the illegitimate daughter, how open were you able to be in the book?
Phil Murray: If you are going to do a biography, you owe it to the readers to be frank and open and comprehensive, and that’s what I’ve tried to do.
The Big Smoke: What did you learn about your father during the project?
Phil Murray: After pouring through 800 pieces of material, plenty. Jack’s own father died when he was five, leaving his mother with four boys under 10. Jack left school at 14 to make his own way. The rest, as they say, is history.
The Big Smoke: You speak with enormous pride about you father in the book, is there an example which accurately sums him up?
Phil Murray: I have a copy of the Daily Mirror which featured three famous people. There was the Prime Minister, Jackie Onassis and Gelignite Jack Murray. He’s done well for himself.