St Helens Brother Profiles-John Murray

brother john murrayIt might not have been a ship ‘bound for South Australia’ but if John Murray’s grandfather had not been forced to leave Ireland ‘on His Majesty’s pleasure’ he would not be here today.

It appears that John’s grandad was a customs officer in Cork in the early part of the last century. Part of his job was to oversee the arrival of cruise liners in the port. However on a Saturday he liked to get home to have his meal before midnight so that he could receive Holy Communion at Mass the following day (rules were much stricter then).

To facilitate this his mate would clock on early to allow him to get home. Unfortunately, on one particular Saturday his mate was late but his grandad decided to take a chance and leave early anyway. His mate did not turn up at all and the liner docked without going through the necessary customs formalities, a serious breach of the regulations.

Grandad was disciplined and given the choice of the sack or redeployment to Liverpool. He chose Liverpool and hence John was born in Anfield on All Saints Day 1st November 1946, was this atonement for previous generation misdemeanours? Notwithstanding John is very keen on his Irish heritage.

John attended All Saints Junior School before moving on to De La Salle Grammar School in Carr Lane from where he gained a place to read Geography at Reading University, it was also where he met his wife Sue. Having graduated and taken a Masters at the London School of Economics, John began teaching at Notre Dame in Woolton.

After a nomadic career from St Dominic’s Huyton, English Martyrs Leicester where he was Deputy Head, to a nine year Headship of Bishop Wulstan Rugby and finally as Head of St.Aelred’s Newton-le-Willows, John retired in 2002.

[pullquote align=”left”]”I thoroughly enjoyed my teaching career and as Head I was very keen on setting the catholic ethos of the School,”[/pullquote] John explained. “Although there were many non-catholics and ‘marginal catholics’ in those schools, for me it was central and important that all the staff ‘bought in’ to that. Not always the easiest of tasks!

Looking back did he make a difference?

“I like to think so and certainly from the responses I have had over the years from former pupils I believe that to be true.” He acknowledged. John’s first contact with the Catenians was in his own words ‘a tap on the shoulder’.

“This happened when I was in Leicester,” he said. “I knew a number of the Parish were involved and I went along out of interest. “(The Catenians) were just what I was looking for…”.

Being in teaching and surrounded by teachers conversation inevitably always edges towards education and it was good to be amongst people from many diverse backgrounds; doctors, solicitors, businessmen and the like. Being a Deputy Head can at times be a very lonely task, so the Catenians was just what I needed.”

In theological terms John who is a parishioner at Our Lady’s Portico would place himself at the radical end of the spectrum, a position moulded by experience and believes that the Church should engage with the laity much more.

“There is a tremendous wealth of talent out there which the Church for some reason appears all too often reluctant to tap into,” he stated. “This is especially so with women who I think generally get a raw deal. It is interesting that Pope Francis has said recently that their roles should not be limited to cleaning the church or organising charities. I look forward to seeing what he has in mind!”

John has served on the Archdiocesan Justice and Peace Commission and helps run the Justice and Peace Group at Portico.

John and Sue have five children Matthew who lives in Tokyo, Daniel in London, Roisin in Melton Mowbray, Ellen in Sheffield and the nearest being Frances who lives in Burnley. They also have seven grandchildren.

John is also a supporter of Everton, and together with Sue enjoys the theatre and holidays especially touring in their camper van. Away from the Catenians, John is also a member of the Newton branch of Rotary, an organisation he joined whilst he was Head at St.Aelred’s and is involved in charity work.

A full life and a happy one? “I would say yes to that,” he concluded.A full life and a happy one? “I would say yes to that,”he concluded.

By Geoff Lightfoot


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