So there’s never a time to stop believing,
There’s never a time for hope to die,
There’s never a time to stop loving,
These three things go on.
— Shirley Murray
Known around the world
By Roger Childs
Shirley Murray had an international reputation and her funeral service on Friday in Raumati Beach was beamed around the globe. Her wonderful hymns are sung in Christian communities across the planet and are greatly admired for their lyrics which emphasize plain language, living skills, environmental respect, social justice, tolerance and positivity.
She never held back from expressing what she believed in, and her reference to conscientious objectors in an Anzac Day hymn caused international controversy.
Honour the brave whose conscience was their call,
answered no bugle, went against the wall,
suffered in prisons of contempt and shame,
branded as cowards, in our country’s name.
A multi-talented woman
However, Shirley had many talents which extended to music, languages, poetry and vigorous advocacy for people and causes. She was brought up in Invercargill where she attended Southland Girls High School and became head prefect. At Otago University she earned a Master of Arts, and many years later her alma mater honoured her with a Doctor of Literature.
She married John Murray who later became Moderator of the Presbyterian Church. Together they served in parishes from Taihape to St Andrews on The Terrace in Wellington, and were involved in many causes for tolerance, justice and equality. Amongst the many organisations and crusades they supported, and often lead, were Amnesty International, opposition to the 1981 Springbok Tour, the Right to Die with Dignity and the Aotearoa Peace Movement.
Active on the Kapiti Coast
John and Shirley Murray retired to Raumati in 1993 and over the next 24 years they made a huge contribution to life on the Kapiti Coast. The expression She/he left the world a better place can sometimes slip off the tongue too easily, however in Shirley’s and John’s case the ways they did that, were many.
Their tireless commitment to many local causes included –
- winning the battle to get Bert’s Way established opposite Menin Road in Raumati Beach to provide public access to the beach
- getting a Community Board established in the area where they lived
- ensuring that the Kapiti Council built a large, free-standing Library in Paraparaumu.
They were also involved in setting up many organisations on the Coast, such as Amnesty International, the University of the Third Age, the Kapiti International Friendship Group to raise awareness of the national migrant groups and the local branch of the Right to Die with Dignity.
She leaves a rich legacy
Shirley Murray will be best remembered for her hymn writing as long as Christian communities continue to sing around the world, and it was this remarkable talent that earned her a New Zealand Order of Merit and other international accolades.
However, this was just one of her many qualities and skills. People who knew her well, speaking to a packed Kapiti Uniting Church on Friday, recalled:
- her devotion to family and friends
- her humanity and compassion
- her sense of humour and lively conversation
- her humility and selflessness
- her commitment to toleration and social justice
- her intellect and wisdom.
She will be greatly missed.