Belfast Telegraph

Ruby Murray, the Belfast singer who even Madonna couldn't top in music charts

Ruby Murray was born on the Donegall Road in south Belfast in 1935
Ruby Murray was born on the Donegall Road in south Belfast in 1935

A Blue Plaque has been erected in Belfast commemorating the 1950s singer Ruby Murray, who set a record Madonna couldn't even beat.

Ruby Murray was born on the Donegall Road in south Belfast in 1935 and was singled out as a performer from an early age.

As a child, she toured Northern Ireland in variety shows before making her television debut in 1947 aged just 12.

While on tour in London in 1954 she was spotted by BBC producer Richard Afton, who offered her a position as the singer on the show Quite Contrary. She was an instant success, capturing the hearts of millions of viewers.

Local legend: Ruby Murray

By chance, the musical director of the show, Ray Martin, was also a talent scout for Columbia Records. He gave the young singer a recording test at the famous Abbey Road Studios and a star was born.

Ruby's first single, Heartbeat, made the top five in the UK charts, while her next single, Softly Softly, went straight to number one.

In March 1955, the Belfast singer made history by having five singles in the top 20 in a single week - a record that was only matched by Madonna four decades later.

Belfast singer Ruby Murray

During the 1950s, Ruby had busy schedule, starring in the Painting the Town Red at the London Palladium with Norman Wisdom, touring in the USA, Malta and north Africa, in addition to having her own TV show.

The performer also had a number of movie appearances and earned the ultimate accolade of appearing before Queen Elizabeth in the Royal Variety Performance.

It wasn't all glitz and glamour, however, as suffered from severe nerves throughout her career that saw her battle with alcoholism.

RUBY murray.jpg
Young starlet Ruby Murray, pictured in the Belfast Telegraph offices. March 1955

Her troubles with alcohol led to the breakdown of her marriage in 1974 and she died of liver cancer in England in 1996 aged 61.

In recent years Ruby's life has been immortalised in not one, but two plays in her home city and the starlet's name lives on in the cockney rhyming slang for Indian curry: "going for a Ruby Murray".

Belfast Telegraph Digital


From Belfast Telegraph