Charles Murray

(26 Feb 1838 – 23 Sept 1904)

Charles was born on 26 February 1838 in the old parsonage, where, as a little boy at the age of four, his life was nearly ended prematurely. Unseen, he fell in a dam in the back of the parsonage. Fortunately, the nurse saw his petticoats afloat on the water, ran to pull him out, and the family doctor was able to restore him.

Charles received his first schooling in the Government School in Graaff Reinet, where after he stayed in Burghersdorp with his eldest John, to receive private instruction from him. This was followed by a few years of study at the SA College in Cape Town, and in 1854 he entered his Theological course at the University of Utrecht, Holland.[1]

On his return to South Africa, Charles accepted a call to Clanwilliam in 1858, which required him to travel on horseback to the scattered farms of Namaqualand. In 1961 Charles married Amelia Jane Bailie. They had fourteen children, of which the eldest Andrew Charles Murray, became the first DRC Missionary to go to Nyasaland. Three other sons also became DRC ministers, one a medical doctor, and one daughter married a minister.

In 1864 Charles was appointed Inspector of the Missions of the Church, requiring him to make extended tours in to the Orange Free State. On the retirement of his father Andrew in 1866, Charles was called to follow in his footsteps in Graaff Reinet.

Charles was known as a most entertaining speaker with a winning voice and manner, and a fresh way of presenting the truth. He also had a keen eye for architecture and was instrumental in the designing and building of the churches in Clanwilliam and the new church in Graaff Reinet.

His love for children and music compelled him to compile the first ‘song book’ for children, De Kinderharp and later the Halleluja. He taught hundreds of children in the Sunday school class – sometimes attended by as many as six hundred scholars at a time!

His other love was that of nature and he had a comprehensive botanical knowledge, developing beautiful gardens in the large grounds of the parsonage with the help of his younger brother, James. He was always keen on giving away cuts of the flowers, trees and other plants, or carefully tending to newly planted beds of flowers and cuts.

Towards the end of his life, an internal tumour developed and, despite a trip to Europe, Charles’ health could not be restored. His last message was to tell his congregation that he thought he was going soon “… to the land which I have been inviting them to go all these years. Tell then I expect today to see the King in His beauty and in His Glory, and to be forever with the Lord”.

In De Kerkbode of 29 September 1904, we find the following statement, reflecting something of Charles’s life and passions: “Many young could also witness to the blessings they received from attending the ‘flowerbed’ of the Sunday school where Charles so faithfully planted and watered. He, (Charles) is likely to find many of his ‘cuttings’ grown into heavenly plants … on his arrival in Paradise.”[2]


[1] Unto Children’s Children, p 99-102

[2] De Kerkbode, 29 Sep 1904, p 464 [author’s free translation]