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A stalwart of Solway

Former Solway College principal Morag Murray died in Edinburgh, Scotland on February 14, 2023, after a brief illness.

Miss Murray, as she was known to two decades of Solway students, emigrated to New Zealand on her “overseas adventure” after finishing her Master of Arts at Edinburgh University. Before her death, Miss Murray said she never wanted to go to university – but she was strongly encouraged to use her brain.

After a brief stint as Solway deputy-principal Miss Murray, not yet 30 years old, took the principal’s job in 1969 and remained in the role until halfway through 1989.

Many former seventh form [Year 13] students from various Wairarapa colleges will remember going to Solway for English lessons with Miss Murray. The college principals had come up with a scheme to share the best teaching resources, and Miss Murray was recognised for her ability to bring English to life and engage students.

During the 1970s, she started Solway’s “School Sisters” programme: “To encourage caring for each other, especially as the newbies could be so homesick”. The programme continues today and has grown to include three scheduled activities each term. Miss Murray also started the “Horizons” programme, a version of which still runs each week, giving students the opportunity to explore their interests and develop their talents.

Another of Miss Murray’s achievements was starting a fund to secure mini busses for the school. When she had the first bus, she took all the school prefects to Auckland to stay with Solway Old Girls Association [SOGA] life member and former president Janet Coombes. There was a SOGA reunion there at the time, and she remembered a lot of fun and laughter.

One change Miss Murray said she happily made in the 1970s was to the school uniform – changing it from gym tunics and stockings [“the girls looked like sacks of potatoes!”] to a fashionable green trouser suit.

In 1984, she let the seventh formers choose their uniform, and they chose a kilt. The rest of the school supported the change, and the Ferguson tartan kilt remains the uniform today.

Miss Murray left Solway, and her many Masterton friends, after 20 years and spent some time in charge of O’Rorke Hall at the University of Auckland.

She returned to Scotland and spent her later years living independently in a retirement complex in Edinburgh. At the complex, she headed the residents’ committee for some years, going into bat for her fellow residents when they needed change.

But she was not always “the Principal”. Morag Murray will be remembered for her wonderful sense of humour, her caring nature, and her enduring faith.

She is survived by her sister Isla and several cousins, who lived near her in Scotland.

Felicity Anderson is a former Solway College student and life member of the Solway Old Girls Association.

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall is the editor of the Wairarapa Midweek. She has been a journalist for the past 10 years, and has a keen interest in arts, culture, social issues, and community justice.

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