A Totara Falls in Kapiti

John Murray with a white peace poppy — one of his many campaign emblems

John Murray — our conscience — has passed away

By Alan Tristram

The Very Reverend John Murray — friend, human rights campaigner and scholar — has died.

The Kapiti Coast has lost a man of conscience, who has been a  Christian in the best sense of the word.

Much will be said about John, who is well-known to many New Zealanders as a former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church.

But I want to give you a personal view of ‘A Man for All Seasons.’  A man who was a key person in building a better, fairer, and more democratic community here on the Coast.

Christ’s message

John Murray

Perhaps the  most important thing to remember is that John took seriously Christ’s messages of peace and human dignity.

On this issue, John —

  • helped lead Kapiti Coasters in supporting Amnesty International
  • campaigned for the sometimes unpopular ‘White Poppy’ cause to promote a more inclusive and peace-loving view of Anzac Day, remembering countless civilians who were the real heroes in our wars
  • supported the White Ribbon campaign to end men’s violence against women
  • was a key figure in the ‘Right to Die with Dignity‘ movement — the Voluntary Euthanasia Society
  • put himself on the line in the anti-apartheid and anti-tour campaigns.

John was highly effective because he was a true scholar, with great intellectual grasp — but also brave, energetic and incorruptible.

Unpopular with many politicians

Of course the above made John unpopular with many self-serving and unscrupulous politicians.

And speaking as a former local politician, (KCDC councillor, 2001 — 2007), I want to place on record my thanks to John Murray for his support in some local democratic causes which have faded from public memory.

I was often in a minority position on Council, but could always count on John’s support and encouragement when things got difficult.

We can thank John for — among other things —

  • Leading the campaign to claw back the beach access-way at 181 Rosetta Road, Raumati. Few councillors backed us in the fight to restore full public access to the beach. But, though the struggle took several years, John Murray and a team of locals never gave up. And finally they won.
  • Helping alert the Kapiti public to threats from politicians to abolish community boards in the name of efficiency. John Murray spoke many times on this issue and helped present a compelling case to the Local Government commission. This led to the establishment of the Paraparaumu/Raumati board.
  • Supporting the lengthy campaign to get a new library building for Paraparaumu. At one stage Kapiti Councillors were even considering an offer from Coastlands to site the library in a vacant space in the shopping complex!
  • Backing efforts to try to set up a ‘rainbow’ coalition to represent all ethnic groups.

Family man

John Murray, ONZM, of Raumati Beach, was in his 88th year when he died.

He was married to Shirley Erena Murray, who arguable is better known in the wider world for her internationally-acclaimed hymns.

Those attending his funeral at 11am on Tuesday (Feb. 21) at the Kapiti Uniting Church, Raumati Beach, will hear some of these, including one specially composed by Shirley for the service.

Shirley and John have three adult sons, David, Alastair and Rob.

The much larger family group, and a huge number of friends, have supported them tirelessly during John’s final illness.

Beliefs and Actions

I think it’s fair to say that, as a man of principle and intelligence, as well as faith, John Murray moved steadily away from the Auld Kirk.

He was happy to attend Quaker meetings and proud to be associated with men like Professor Lloyd Geering, once prosecuted by the Presbyterian Church for heresy.

In fact, I understand that Professor Geering, a life-long friend of John’s, will lead the service on Tuesday.

Final note(s)

And on another tack, let’s not forget John’s columns for KIN. Always thought-provoking, these presented well written and well-argued cases for his beliefs.

As well as all this, the Very Revd John Murray accepted my invitation to become honorary chaplain to the Kapiti Prostate Squadron.

The Squadron comprises a remarkable group of men who meet weekly for coffee, conversation and an escape from the routines of domestic drudgery.

John enjoyed these weekly sessions of light-heated tomfoolery — and more serious discussion — at the No. 6 Cafe at Raumati Beach.

We may never see his like again.

But we will raise a final cup of latte this coming week to one of our most illustrious Sky Pilots.





A mighty man of God, a wonderful family man, and a treasured friend of many, will be sorely missed. However, there will be few who knew him who won’t remember him with much love, respect and happiness for having known him. Sincere sympathy to Shirley and all the family, from Coreen. There’ll be lots of catching-up in Heaven!

I count myself very fortunate to have had John as a friend. The great man has now passed on, but as Alan and others have pointed out, he leaves a hugely positive legacy. Since he and Shirley came to live on the Coast, they have been very active in pushing for improvements in the local area and in promoting many national causes. John’s energy, sincerity and commitment has been inspirational.

Like Sylvia, I remember John from VUW days, over 50 years ago. Since then he has supported so many good causes and achieved great things. A true man of God and peace.

He was an inspiration and a true Christian. Back in my student days John was a very approachable and supportive chaplain at VUW.