William Murray

(21 October 1829 – 16 July 1899)

William, the third child, is described as “essentially the mother’s boy”: being the eldest at home after his two brothers left for Scotland and Maria was sent to boarding school, it fell on him to help Mama Maria in the house.[1]

William received his basic education in Graaff Reinet and then went on to Cape Town to find employment in a merchant’s warehouse so as to fit him for business. However, he came under the influence of his uncle Rev George Stegman and shared in the blessing of the revival at St Stephan’s Church. He then felt himself called to serve the Lord and went on to study theology in Scotland and at the University of Utrecht.

On his return to South Africa in 1854, he immediately became pastor in Middelburg where, in 1855, he married his cousin Ellie Gie. The couple moved to Worcester where they had fifteen children, nine of whom reached adulthood. There was always an atmosphere of love and hospitality in the parsonage and a keen interest in mission work. Their one younger son, William Hoppe Murray, was one of the first missionaries in Nyasaland. In turn, their granddaughter Pauline Versfeld Murray (eldest daughter of William jnr) – after having lived with her grandparents in Worcester for most of her school-going years – became the second female medical doctor in Nyasaland.

As pastor, William was known to be an able and diligent worker. Under his leadership that the congregation tackled their huge debt. The number of bazaars were increased, the organisation improved, the congregation motivated to contribute more, and by 1824 the debt of almost fifty years was delved. After this, William and the congregation could focus on the opening of a Seminary for Girls in 1876 and, in 1881, the School for the Deaf.[2] William will be forever remembered for the work he did in connection with the establishment of schools for the deaf and dumb and the blind in Worcester.

William’s missionary calling drove him to find the time to on several occasions undertake the long journey to Namaqualand by horse and wagon to serve the scattered, difficult to reach population. He found it a joy to break the Bread of Life to them.

His greatest virtue was his humility, as he saw himself as a disciple of the Master, “I am among you as one that serveth”.  He was also seen by his congregation as a “Johannes”– a man of love.  As a token of their love, the congregation erected a costly monument on his grave and built his widow and daughters a house in the grounds of the parsonage, on as spot which he had elected himself some time before his death.


[1]Unto Children’s Children, p 90-93

[2]De Kerkbode, 20 Julie 1899, p 449-452; NG Kerk Worcester Gedenkboek1970, p 42-54.