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.