The Turner Group History

The Waratah

Models of the ill-fated Waratah have pride of place in the offices of Turners Shipping in Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town. They were commissioned by the current Group CEO Conrad Cochrane Murray as a reminder of the company's origins.

Having established a successful business in South Africa, David Turner decided it was time for his family to visit their ancestral home and with his wife and five children they boarded the ill-fated passenger liner, the Waratah, bound for London.

The Waratah was on the return leg of its maiden voyage which took it from England to Australia where it called on Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney before sailing to South Africa. On the evening of 26 July 1909 the newly built ship left Durban and was expected to reach Cape Town on July 29 but it never arrived.

A search was mounted but no trace of the ship nor its 211 passengers and crew was ever found. The disappearance of the Waratah remains one of the mysteries of South Africa’s maritime history.

There were reported sightings of the Waratah making its way along the Transkei’s aptly named Wild Coast, and there were also reports of bad weather and rolling waves at the time if the ship’s disappearance.

John Cochrane-Murray, David Turner’s business partner took over the running of the business deciding to keep the Turner name as a mark of respect for the friend he had lost. The Company has remained in the family to the current day.

The Founding Fathers

David Turner
1896 - 1909

The founder of the Company whose clearing and forwarding business, Turner & Co – Natal (Pty) Ltd has grown into The Turner Group.

Robert Paton
1896 - 1913

He was a partner and director of Turner & Co – Natal (Pty) Ltd who immigrated to Australia in rather dubious circumstances.

John Cochrane - Murray
1909 - 1952

As David Turner’s business partner it was left to him to run the business when Turner was lost at sea. He ran the company for the first half of the 20th Century.

Ian (DJ) Cochrane - Murray
1946 - 1999

Taking over the business from his grandfather at the end of the Second World War he steered the Company into the modern era.


Next time you are in the Boardroom at The Turner Group’s head office in Durban, take some time to look at the framed medal hanging on the wall.

Most will remember Ian Cochrane-Murray as the past Chairman of The Turner Group, but few will know that he also served as the Belgium Consul in Natal for fifteen years, and received a knighthood for his services to Belgium and the local Belgian community.

The medal represents the Belgian Knighthood of the Order of the Crown which was presented to Ian Cochrane-Murray in October 1993 by King Baudouin of Belgium.

Ian Cochrane-Murray was chairman of The Turner Group from 1946 to 1999, when he retired, passing the reigns of the business to his son, and current CEO of The Turner Group, Conrad.