Rowling-Murray Wedding Anniversary 19

Yesterday was the 19th wedding anniversary of Joanne Rowling and Dr Neil Murray, who were married in a private ceremony at their recently acquired Perthshire castle on Boxing Day, 2001. If you want to send off a present, fashionably late (no flowers!), the gift, both by modern and traditional reckoning, for the 19th wedding anniversary should be in bronze.

A quick three notes to mark the occasion, none worthy of being set in bronze, alas:

(1) The Rowling-Murray marriage, if her recent comments on ‘Tracks of My Years’ are any measure, seems to be in good shape. It has, at least, its good moments.

Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers – on a moving marital moment and lockdown being a special time with her family

JK: Well I think of all the love songs written, this might be my favourite. It’s such a beautiful, simple sentiment, but I have an additional reason for choosing it, which is that it took lockdown for my husband to say to me… I was playing it in the kitchen while cooking something; he walked in, he said,  ‘This always makes me think of you when you’re down in London’ and that was a very moving marital moment so now it has an extra layer of meaning for me. [On lockdown]…. Well, I hope that all listeners have had the happy experience that I’ve had of it being quite a special time. We also have teenage kids and it’s been kind of wonderful to spend that extra time with them.

Contrast this comment with her comments about the REM song, ‘Everybody Hurts,’ on her November, 2000, appearance on the BBC program ‘Desert Island Discs.’ Go to 26:00 in the interview to hear that story.

(2) She Married Harry Potter? One reason the Potter-Murray match may have worked out is that Rowling says he has all the qualities of the man who lived in her head for twenty years, rent free, that is, The Boy Who Lived. From the report on the Carnegie Hall event in 2007 (grateful hat-tip to Patricio at

When asked by an 18-year-old 12th grader, “Which of the Potter characters would you marry?,” Rowling giggled. “The truth is, in my younger days, I dated Ron more than once,” she admitted, giving an inside look at why Hermione (the closest character to Rowling’s younger self) might be attracted to Harry’s best friend. “He’s fun to write, but not so much fun to date.” And once she had learned her lesson, Rowling said, “I married Harry Potter,” referring to her second husband, Neil Murray. “He’s up there [in the wings]. I just mortified him,” she laughed. “But he looks like Harry would look like, at a certain age. I married a very good person and a gutsy person. And that’s who Harry is.”

From the 2007 Interview with Rowling in Holland at Deathly Hallows‘ publication there (big thank you to Beatrice Groves):

When did you decide to draw a parallel with the Nazis? With Voldemort, who strives for the rule of the”pure blood”, and with Draco Malfoy as a young soldier who is just ?
Immediately I think. I’m not exactly sure. I think The Second World War in anchored in all our minds, right? Draco Malfoy does indeed stand for that type of boy. He wouldn’t have killed Dumbledore , he couldn’t. As long as things are imaginary, okay, but once it becomes reality, the thing becomes more difficult. No, that I gave him that light blonde hair is not because I wanted to make him into a scary Nazi. You give your characters the appearance that you find attractive; that is why I gave my hero dark hair, green eyes and glasses. I’m married to a man who looks like that.

(3) Whom Did He Marry?

I want to think he married Robin Ellacott, which is to say, (a) a brilliantly thoughtful woman (b) with PTSD from a previous marriage, (c) one who is working on her issues but who is loyal and supportive to those she loves (d) while knowing her vocation and insistent that she heed this calling. I was going to add “fearless,” but “brave” and “tenacious,” in Rowling’s case even “stubborn” are probably more accurate. I forgot “sense of humor”!

And who wouldn’t want to be married to Robin Ellacott? “Everyone loves Robin” is a refrain one hears not only in the Strike novels but from the author in interviews. She has her problems, of course, but she doesn’t have any real character flaws or “faults” I can think of off-hand.

Here’s the thing. From Dr Murray’s description of what it is like living with Jo Murray, I think the character he married wasn’t Hermione Granger or Robin Ellacott or even Sybil Trelawney, all character stand-ins for J. K. Rowling in their way. He married Cormoran Strike. From the 2012 New Yorker profile, ‘Mugglemarch:’

She also met Neil Murray, a friend of her sister’s. Rowling resisted being set up: “He was just out of a marriage himself—I just thought that would be complicated. I wasn’t up for that.” But they eventually found themselves seated next to each other at a charity event in Edinburgh. He was aware of the Harry Potter books but hadn’t read them. The couple have a son and a daughter together. A few years ago, a documentary crew travelling with Rowling recorded what seems to be Murray’s only public comment about his wife: “Jo detaches herself,” he said, in her hearing, with a smile. “When she’s very stressed, she’ll detach herself and only trust one person, and that’s herself. So everyone else gets blocked out and she becomes more and more stressed and less and less able to accept any help.”

That doesn’t sound like a lot of “sunshine,” does it? My guess, though, is that, aware as he was of the problem and, as casually as he shared this in her presence and in front of cameras, that his awareness — and frustration? — wasn’t news to her, they’ve worked on this. “That talking thing” that Robin does with Cormoran (or invites him to try after his blow-up in the American Bar)? My bet is that it was Dr. Murray who said that to her rather than Robin/Joanne who suggested this to him.

Either way, nineteen years in the global spotlight, two teenage children, and a working marriage — these are not small but significant achievements, ones worthy of at least a Bronze Medal. Congratulations, Dr. and Mrs. Murray!



  1. Just an extra note — According to a MuggleNet piece in 2011, the Rowling-Murray nuptials were officiated by a priest of the Scottish Episcopal Church, minister J.S. Richardson of St. Columbia’s Episcopal Church in Edinburgh, which must have involved something of a conversion for Dr. Murray.

    This from the Dutch newspaper interview mentioned above:

    Were you raised religiously?
    I was officially raised in the Church of England, but I was actually more of a freak in my family. We didn’t talk about religion in our home. My father didn’t believe in anything, neither did my sister. My mother would incidentally visit the church, but mostly during Christmas. And I was immensely curious. From when I was 13, 14 I went to church alone. I found it very interesting what was being said there, and I believed in it. When I went to university, I became more critical. I got more annoyed with the smugness of religious people and I went to church less and less. Now I’m at the point where I started: yes, I believe. And yes, I go to the church. A protestant church here in Edinburgh. My husband is also raised protestant, but he comes from a very strict Scottish group. One where they couldn’t sing and talk.

    That was thirteen years ago. I wonder how things stand today with the Murrays vis a vis church going.

  2. One more note, something we learned only recently about the Rowling-Murray wedding: it was the occasion the preparation for which involved Rowling wearing a disguise, something she claims to have done only once.

    From the article reviewing Rowling’s interview with Graham Norton about ‘The Ickabog:’

    Rowling, who is married to Neil Murray, also discussed putting on a disguise when she went to buy her wedding dress.

    “We got married very quietly and we had been hassled a bit by the press and just wanted to be able to have a very private wedding ceremony, so I did wear a disguise.

    “I was so paranoid and so I put on a disguise to buy it.”

    This comment takes places at 16:25 in that interview and during its ‘True or False’ portion. Norton asks her to confirm or deny the sentence, “You love [inaudible] so much that you often wear a disguise in order to go see them.” Rowling responds with a disbelieving “What?!” and then “The only time I have ever worn a disguise ever is when I bought my wedding dress.”

    She adds to the quotation above, “I didn’t buy a wedding dress — it was an evening dress….” Norton follows up with, “So what was the disguise?” to which she responds, “I don’t want to say. I really, really, really don’t want to say, it’s so embarrassing.”

    They both laugh and Norton adds, “Did the wedding shop think you had a facial hair problem?” Rowling roars and says, “No, that didn’t happen, but, yeah, I did wear a slight disguise, I mean it wasn’t a prosthetic job.” “I’m intrigued,” was Norton’s segue to his farewell from the interview.

    There is no mention, of course, in the entire Norton interview of the Ickabog in the room, Rowling’s nightmare fall from media-grace in 2020 because of her opposition to transgender over-reach, except perhaps for Norton’s last second suggestion that Rowling’s preferred disguise is a beard and Rowling’s mention of media persecution. FWIW.

    For me the take-away about the disguise was Rowling’s state of mind at the end of the year, 2001. She describes it as feeling “so paranoid” because “we had been hassled a bit by the press.” What an atmosphere in which to be married, no? More points to this Gryffindor couple for their successful marriage over nigh on two decades.

  3. Beatrice Groves says

    A lovely accolade from 2007:
    ‘No writer ever had a better spouse than my husband. I still cannot believe how lucky I am to have married Neil; I don’t think writers are supposed to be this happy. His support has made the writing of the sixth and seventh books, in particular, a complete joy.’

  4. So does this mean Dr. Murray is her Patronus?

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