This was the first address given at the funeral of Stephanie Wolfe Murray on the 5th of July 2017, at the Old Parish Kirk in Peebles.
By Gavin Wolfe Murray.
Stephanie, my mother, Mummy, the boss. She meant the world to me and I have been amazed to discover over the last few days how profoundly she affected the lives of so many people. She was a saint.
Endlessly loving, giving, thoughtful, curious. She always put others first. She always wanted to help, to care, to listen, to share, regardless of who it was.
My first memories are of Braulen, west of Inverness. Landsdowne Road in London. Glenternie in Kirkton Manor. Society House near South Queensferry, St Leonard’s Bank in Edinburgh. So many happy memories. More recently mother lived at the Laundry House at The Glen, and finally Glenlude House, high on the hill above Traquair, with the flag flying, and flowers of every colour, and house martens feeding their young in their little mud houses under the eaves.
Wherever Mummy lived was the centre of life for the whole family and a haven for poets, lost souls, travellers, neighbours, strangers; no one was turned away. All her homes were distinct but they were all the same because she was there. The aluminium cooking pots, the indestructible oak dining table, the Beatrix Potter books, worn and frayed with nibbled pages. I read the Tale of Miss Tiggy Winkle to her recently. They were very similar although my mother was a lot prettier.
Come inside, the door is open. The dogs are barking, a wonderful smell is coming from the kitchen, children are laughing, unopened letters are scattered on the table with card scores written on the back. There are seed packets, cups of tea, a pile of beetroot leaves from the polytunnel, and there is my mother chopping an onion, stirring the stew, popping rhubarb crumble into the over, wiping her dirty garden hands on a stained and torn tea towel, then greeting me with a happy smile: “Hello baalamb! Would you like a cup of tea?”
I want to tell you about my mother growing up in the War with her mother and her sister Virginia; how well she played the piano, the viola, organ, and flamenco guitar; the debutante staying at Blenheim Palace and gracing the covers of fashion magazines, living in Florence, New York, Paris, driving at impossible speeds on the wrong side of the road to get us to school on time, smoking opium in a tribal village in the jungle highlands of Thailand, riding a yak in Tibet, meeting my father and talking till dawn in a tree, barefoot, grabbing the notebook from a traffic warden’s hand and tearing off the first sheets and then driving away, living in a tent in Kosovo while helping displaced people, picnics on the river and on the hill, summer days making daisy chains, picking elderflowers, raspberries, blackcurrants, throwing on a thin cotton dress at the first hint of summer, and laying on a rug on the lawn, reading a book, pressing flowers into the pages of a book, publishing books with Canongate, changing the face of Scottish literature forever, a model and inspiration for women, visiting her children and grandchildren in America, the Maldives, Romania, raising her grandchildren, swimming in the sea, at the witch’s pool, living in a hut in an African village walking into the Sahara desert to raise money for Maggie’s Centre, giving endlessly to charities, passionately concerned about climate change, working to find a better way to live that would have a positive impact on people and the planet, singing in the Traquair choir, listening to Radio 4, talking about current affairs, making orange marmalade to send out at Christmas, hanging Christmas decorations, setting out the nativity figurines, cutting her own hair, rescuing stray dogs from Montenegro and Portugal and bringing them home to Scotland, holidays on Rhum, Eigg, Barra, Colonsay, Arran.
I want to tell you these things and many more but I have no more time. But I have the rest of my life to cherish the memory of my sweet mother, Stephanie. I do have the rest of my life to honour my Mother by living as well as I can, by loving and caring for others, and for the world.
Mummy, I feel you here with me always. Your spirit will never die. I love you forever.
- My mother’s notes from Montenegro - July 9, 2021
- Travel as a Way of Life - March 1, 2021
- Stephanie Wolfe Murray: elfin, beautiful, passionate, courageous - January 14, 2021
Stephanie was a good friend when we were at Overstone being in the same year sometimes in the same dormitory . As well as being pretty she was good fun . Although I’m sad to hear she has died (I wish I’d known she was in Scotland as I was often there ) I’m so pleased to read about her life and what a wonderful kind person she carried on to be . My sympathy to all the family including Virginia if she is still with us .
Cherry Gibbs (Drummond)
I remember Stephanie at Overstone. We were a very small, happy school so even though she was a bit senior to me I remember her well. What a wonderful life she has had. The eulogy by her son was terrific and it made me laugh and feel sad at the same time.
Where to start?
She had a mutitude of talent & such energy that a mere 24-hours couldn’t hope to contain. Having read a few of those many people’s recollection and most especially viewed that 1968 B&W film clip from your family, I as a stranger felt sadness at time passed ___ so the mix of emotion for all of you is hard to imagine.
Impressive as her long line of professional achievements are, I’d guess the biggest smile from her, proud of her children. Quite a while back, reading various newspaper’s contribution, I could see even by this snapshot of a liftime, how precious an individual we all lost.
There are WAY too few Stephanie’s & I feel shame not being a better person or trying more.
from Northern Ireland Ireland
I remember once we said to Granny, “Hey, we’re going to the market!”
Confused, she turned around and said “Ice cream?”
Or when we called her and asked for sardines. She called back and said she couldn’t find any sour beans.
Dear Rupert , I want to express my condolences to you for the death of your mother. From what I have been reading she was a very remarkable woman and you and all your family must be feeling the loss keenly. You have written recently about how confusing coping with death is. Until my father died some 40 years ago, I did not realise that the dead appear in your thoughts when you least expect it and that sudden memory can be overwhelming. One can become paralysed with grief and be left bewildered by its sudden appearance. From talking to others in a similar situation I have learnt that this is to be expected. Loved ones can appear at the strangest times. One can find an apparently insignificant item, such as a receipt for a book.
One’s brain then instantly remembers that this receipt was for a present for the loved one; the last thing you bought before they died. Then one is overwhelmed by a flash flood of grief. Apparently this is all part of the grieving process and will fade over time. But it can still happen years after one’s loss. The best advice I can give is to concentrate on thinking about the good times; remember how she knew she was loved by all her family. This will help you but it is a slow process.
that’s brilliant writing no really that’s great stuff Stephanie would have loved it I’m going to tear a page out of a. Traffic wardens notebook in her honour and stuff the consequences
Dearest Rupert – I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your cherished mum. She was always an inspiration and had always made me feel so welcome. The physical pain of loss is hard to bare my love and thoughts are with you Lx
I had not heard that Stephanie had passed on. If this gets to the family, please accept my condolences and best wishes. I have fond memories of you all at Society – parties, interbreeding Labradors, my late sister Jenny working at Canongate with Stephanie. She had a unique blend of energy, determination and kindness.
Dear Rupert, I wonder if you remember me, Suki Lyle from Riemore? I joined up with Moona on Facebook a couple of years ago!
What a beautiful eulogy to your lovely mother – I always remember her with great fondness or crazy times staying with you when we were little and organising midnight feasts for us.
She was such an open welcoming and loving person and I loved coming to stay with you all. Do you remember coming to Riemore and camping and fishing. Mummy loved having you all to stay. Much love and good memories of childhood to you and all your brother xxx