Maria Susanna Murray

(5 March 1809 – August 1889)

Maria Susanna Magdalena (Maria/Mama) Murray (Stegman) was born in the Cape into a family of business people. Her father, a trader and producer of furniture, was well known and respected Capetonian. When Maria, at the age of sixteen, said “yes” to the young Rev Andrew Murray, a trousseau was prepared. One piece still exists – the so-called “Maria Cupboard”, a large and exquisitely made ‘Jonkmanskas’ which always goes to the eldest Maria in the family.

Another interesting aspect of the young couples first encounters, is Andrew’s insistence that Maria’s house maid (a slave at the time) was to be set free and travel of her own free will with the couple to Graaff Reinet. It is also said that he young Andrew heard about a set of crockery that Maria had seen on the marked and bought it for her as a wedding present without her being aware of it. To her surprise and joy he presented her with this on their arrival in the parsonage of Graaff Reinet.

During the following thirty years, Maria gave birth to no less than sixteen children. Some died in infancy, but twelve lived to become young adults. Unfortunately, the young Catherine (Kitty), said to be the true musical one in the family, died at the tender age of nineteen. Of the eleven children who reached adulthood, nine followed in their parents’ footsteps with five sons going in to the ministry and four daughters marrying DRC-ministers. Helen, the unmarried daughter, became a teacher and the principal of the Midlands Seminary for Girls, and James – “the beloved bachelor Uncle” – took to farming and gardening.

Maria was known for her gentle character, for her lively interests in those she loved – even studying Latin to be of greater help to the children. She often read stories to her children, her lovely musical voice a pleasure to listen to. She wrote hundreds of letters to her children, always expressing her love and respect for their individuality and special interests or tasks. Maria prayed continuously for her children and, during the later years, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, sawing God’s free grace in the lives of her children.

To her children she was “Mama” who taught them to read before school age, learned them verses and prayers at her knee. Her lessons from the Bible was connected to everyday events, such as the falling show: “See, just as white as the snow is, so white our souls are washed in the blood of Jesus!” One of her children, Charles who became pastor of Graaff Reinet after his father’s death and with whom Mama lived until her last days, wrote the following about Maria:

“So gentle, so Jesus-like in her utter unselfishness, so continually full of the deep peace of God, and of love for us! … Oh, how I miss her, especially at meals and family prayers … And how I shall miss that precious face at the Communion, when, with so much joy and blessing, she used to take from my hand the bread and the wine.”[1]


[1] Unto Children’s Children, p 62-79