Remembering Father Murray
The past month or so has seen the loss of two influential figures in the field of education. Both Sister Mary Margaret and Father Senan Murray were born in Ireland, but spent much of their lives in Trinidad. Two of my sons attended Maria Regina Grade School when Sister Mary Margaret was the school Principal. Father Murray spent much of his life teaching at St Mary’s College where my father and I studied; and where my eldest son is in Form 2 today.
At a time when teachers too often find themselves in the media spotlight for all the wrong reasons, I wanted to recognise that there are many educators who quietly and humbly devote their lives to shaping the minds and character of young men and women. Father Murray died on Holy Thursday in Ireland and the short obituary that I received by email noted that he was born in Killenaugh, Carrigaholt, Kilrush, County Clare on the 13th April 1933. Following his secondary studies at Rockwell College, he entered the novitiate in Kilshane and was professed on the 8th September 1953. After earning a B.A. in 1956, he prefected in Trinidad for three years. He studied theology in Kimmage and was ordained to the Priesthood on the 8th July 1962. Father Murray made his Consecration to the Apostolate on the 13th July 1963. Father Murray’s mission appointment was to Nigeria in 1963, where he served for six years, first in Ihiala and then as Director of St. John’s Diocesan Junior Seminary in the Enugu Diocese. The Biafran war brought an end to his ministry in Nigeria in 1969. The following year he was re-assigned to Trinidad where he took up teaching at St. Mary’s College. In 1977 he returned to Ireland for a year’s study leave after which he returned to Trinidad. USA Tax Singapore
Much was said in that short biography but even more was left unsaid. At St Mary’s College, Father Murray was identified with the First Trinidad Sea Scouts, and a former Sea Scout, Chris Lee Kim flew to Ireland to attend his funeral. Chris wrote that –
“…It was a beautiful service which celebrated his life. The way in which we knew him, his congregation and family had similar sentiments. He spoke highly of 1st Trinidad Sea Scouts and all his family knew about his work at Pt. Gourde and the boathouse. I had the opportunity to have tea with his Spiritan brothers. His family was quite big and they welcomed me as if I was one of the family. They requested that I sit next to his brother at the front of the church and I was greeted by all of the congregation. There were symbols of the things that meant a lot to him, his plant, teapot and mug, a handmade wooden lamp he had made, a rugby ball, his favourite rugby team flag, a medal and plaque that was awarded to him for his work in the First Trinidad Sea Scouts. I was unable to attend his burial at Rockwell College, which was where he received his secondary education and the place he wished to be his final resting place. He spent his last couple of years doing what he loved, serving the community in the parishes Askeaton and Ballysteen and his congregation were very fond of him, they have even adopted the "High Five". He had fond memories of the steel pan contingent visited him in 2010 which was one of his happiest moments. His friends and family said "he was in his element". He is now at his final resting place with the Lord.”
I would imagine that for any teacher, it would be quite fulfilling to know that their students not just turned out to be decent members of their community, but that their former students acknowledge their positive influence. In one of the St Mary’s College Past Student groups on Facebook there were comments by past students. Richard Morales wrote – “Really Great memories here. Fr. Murray was one of the great ones. R.I.P.”. Daryl C Joseph wrote – “RIP Fr. Murray...and sorry for not reading Great Expectations when I was supposed to!”. Gary P. A. Watson wrote – “RIP a true teacher and gentleman”. Bobby Seeramlal wrote – “I remember when he brought his sword in. The charge of the light brigade - "Flash'd all their sabres bare, Flash'd as they turn'd in air Sabring the gunners there, Charging an army while All the world wonder'd: Plunged in the battery-smoke Right thro' the line they broke; Cossack & Russian Reel'd from the sabre-stroke, Shatter'd & sunder'd. Then they rode back, but not Not the six hundred”.
Today I acknowledge not just Father Murray but all those teachers who see teaching as their calling, and not just a job. I say ‘thank you’.