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01 June 2020

Stephanie Wolfe Murray

27 June 2017

Stephanie Wolfe Murray - who founded Canongate in 1973 with her husband Angus and Charles Wild, and ran it until 1994 - died on 24 June 2017.

A Life in Books (download the PDF) is an eclectic collection of memories of Stephanie Wolfe Murray. It was edited and published by her son Rupert Wolfe Murray, designed by Jim Hutcheson and sponsored by friends. There is also an article by Rupert on the website.

There is a moving tribute from Jamie Byng on the Canongate website and appreciations from Jenny Brown, Lorraine Fannin and Michael O'Brien below.


Funeral Notice

Published in The Scotsman on July 3, 2017

WOLFE MURRAY Stephanie (Innerleithen) Scottish publishing lost one of its own, when Stephanie, died peacefully at home, on June 24, 2017, aged 76. As co-founder of Canongate, she helped inspire a literary resurrection, as well as charm the luminaries of the international book world. Funeral at The Old Parish Church, Peebles, at 1 pm, Wednesday, July 5, 2017. No flowers please. Donations to Macmillan Cancer Support or Compassion In World Farming, would be better than roses.


Tribute Event at EIBF

A host of Scotland's leading authors paid tribute to Stephanie at a special event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Wednesday 23 August 2017. Participants included Alasdair Gray, Mairi Hedderwick, Alexander McCall Smith, Tom Pow and Kim Wolfe Murray. The event was chaired by Canongate's own Jamie Byng.


Stephanie Wolfe Murray - an Irish Publisher Recalls

I was abroad on holiday recently when I heard of the sad death of the great Scottish publisher, Stephanie Wolfe Murray, founder of Canongate.

In the years after 1974, when I founded O'Brien Press, I was lucky to be able to share excitement, dread and achievements with a like-minded Scottish publisher. Stephanie was a leading light and fully engaged with the creative Scots/Irish partnership that grew up at the time. We learned from one another, swapped ideas, and co-operated in many ways. Irish publishers were invited to exhibit at and create events for the first Edinburgh Book Festival in 1983, which took place in the amazing 'tent town' in a public park. Stephanie made us feel so welcome. Then there was the Scottish Publishers Association/CLÉ (now Publishing Ireland) joint conference in Dublin, which was very well attended and allowed us all to share ideas and experiences, with lots of common ground emerging. At one point in those early days, there was a plan to position Scotland and Ireland's stands beside one another at Frankfurt book fair, to expand activity for mutual benefit - a proposal that has come up again in recent years and which, if achieved, would honour Stephanie's achievements.

As well as engagement with these international activities, Stephanie was of course working wonders with her terrific Canongate list which, among many innovations, included the Kelpies series of children's books, capturing Scottish traditions and literary heritage and re-imagining them for contemporary child readers. The series is still in print today, with Floris Books, which is a testament to their quality and appeal.

Stephanie was smart, brave and, cultured. She was an innovator and risk-taker who should be remembered for the naturally inspirational person she was, and for the joy she still gives to readers of the many books she helped created and publish. My deepest sympathy goes to her family, especially her son Rupert, whom I met in recent times.

Michael O'Brien
Publisher, The O'Brien Press


An appreciation from Lorraine Fannin, former Chief Executive of Publishing Scotland (1986-2008)

Stephanie Wolfe Murray - Publishing Days

Many people have been described as 'legendary'; few have deserved it more than Stephanie Wolfe Murray. Her talent and commitment to literature in Scotland have been discussed and massively appreciated. For her colleagues in the publishing world, she was, and remains, the centre of countless stories which amuse, intrigue and enlighten in great measure.

I first met Stephanie more almost 35 years ago when we were both looking hard at the provision of children's books in Scotland, for then there were few books in print which reflected the cultural experience of a Scottish childhood. I was a children's bookseller and she was considering for Canongate a new series for children under the "Kelpies' imprint, which has gone on to become a staple in Scotland. A few years later she suggested I should think about moving to the Scottish Publishers Association, a co-operative body mainly for independent publishers which she had helped to establish. So began an era in which she was both a mentor and a friend, and worked with us to put together resources and projects which would help the publishing industry in Scotland reach markets and build confidence in the talents it had.

In that Association, later transforming into the present-day Publishing Scotland, Stephanie was a long-serving Board member who saw the benefit of cooperation and collaboration, not of knock-out competition; she had no time for red-tape and box-ticking, and wanted to get on with making and selling beautiful books. It was an exhilarating time.

She realised that the development of bookshop chains meant that small publishers had little chance of getting to see the big buyers, so she helped develop a network of sales agents who took on a group of publishers, and she supported the early work on book distribution which eventually led to the formation of the Scottish-based BookSource.

She and I travelled together to many overseas book fairs, where in the early days she introduced me to a mind-blowing number of overseas publishers. "You have to meet them and be friends" she said, "so you can do your best to sell your authors' work round the world. And funnily enough, a lot of them really do become your friends". As the news of her passing spreads around the international publishing community, that has become very apparent.

She was of course a maverick - and that was a great element of her charm. Flying to the USA in her company was always bracing, from the time she tried to carry a fully-loaded display spinner of Kelpie paperbacks on to the aircraft as hand-luggage (yes, she talked her way into that, unbelievably) to the security check in New York. There she aroused interest firstly because she was dressed - "for comfort" she said - in a black boiler suit with a military looking belt (her Girl Guide belt in fact). For the stern-faced US guards it was rather reminiscent of the latter days of the Baader Meinhof Red Army faction, and they questioned her accordingly. Then they hit what they thought was pay dirt - a tin of finely crushed leaves. What?  "It's Earl Grey tea", Stephanie was cross, "I had to bring it, your tea here is such filthy rubbish".  We who were waiting for her, groaned and settled for another half hour delay.

There was, as the cliché goes, never a dull moment in the ups and downs of those days; I feel privileged to have known Stephanie as a colleague and as a good friend.

Lorraine Fannin


An appreciation from literary agent Jenny Brown

Stephanie was an inspiration from the moment I first met her in the early 1980s. A visionary editor in the days when Scottish publishers were few and far between, introducing new voices like those of Alasdair Gray, Jimmy Boyle, and Charles Palliser, publishing landmark volumes like Antonia Fraser's Scottish Love Poems and republishing classics like Sunset Song

An instinctive publisher with a keen eye for design. A passionate human with a strong sense of social responsibility and a gift for friendship. A woman with a sense of adventure who loved the hills. A single mother of four boys. Capable and scatty. Individual. Stylish. And beautiful. Overseas publishers regularly fell head over heels for her at bookfairs.

She still found time to be on the founding Board of the Edinburgh Book Festival, and was generous with me as a rookie Director, giving me a crash course into the minds (and pockets) of publishers. One early Edinburgh Book Festival there was a friendly competition amongst senior publishers to see how many copies of their books they could hand sell to the public. The sales of London publishers Christopher Maclehose and Andre Deutsch were easily overtaken by the enterprising Stephanie who had lined up Alasdair Gray to draw pen portraits into every copy of Lanark that day.

One of our last meetings was at Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival two summers ago, Stephanie and I on a panel talking about how to get published, her grand-daughters in the front row. There she was, offering great advice to new writers,  engaged in literature, in the festival  and in life - and looking as groovy as ever.

Jenny Brown


See also:

We don't expect death: Kirsty Gunn in The Scotsman 3 July 2017

Pioneer of Scottish Publishing dies aged 76: Magnus Linklater in The Times 27 June 2017  This is also reproduced with permission on LinkedIn at

Stephanie Wolfe Murray: by Jan Rutherford in The Scottish Review of Books 27 June 2017

Obituary: The Herald 4 July 2017

Obituary: The Scotsman 13 July 2017

Obituary: The Edinburgh Evening News 17 July 2017

Obituary: The Telegraph 29 August 2017