Queer Places:
Reinet House, Murray St, Graaff-Reinet, 6280, South Africa

Helen Murray (September 22, 1849 - December 20, 1937) was a graduated from the Huguenot Seminary in 1875 and from 1876 - 1916 was Principal of the Midland Seminary at Graaff Reinet, Cape Colony. She wrote an autobiography The Joy of Service published in 1935. In 1931 she also wrote The Andrew Murray Family Register, 1822-1931.

Helen (Ellie) Murray, daughter of Rev. Andrew Murray III, was Andrew Murray’s young sister who was roughly within the same age group as Andrew’s daughters, and thus was accepted as a sister amongst them and resided with Emma and Andrew for some time during her education at the Huguenot Seminary. Andrew Murray III (1794-1866) was from a family of Old Light Presbyterians which settled in “Lofthills” in Aberdeenshire; he was born in the Milltown of Clatt in the Aberdeenshire district of Scotland. He arrived in South Africa in July 1822 from Scotland to act as minister to the mainly Dutch-speaking community of Graaff Reinet. He served the congregation in this capacity from 1822 until his death in 1866. He married Maria Susanna Magdalena Stegman (1809-1889) at Graaff-Reinet, daughter of Johan Godlieb Stegman, of The Cape of Good Hope, apparently by the latter’ first wife, Jacomina Sophia Hoppe. Andrew Murray III's sister was Elizabeth Murray, whose daughter was Mary Robertson (1827-1890), daughter of The Rev. James Robertson, of Old Deer, and of Sherbrooke, Québec. Mary Robertson was a graduate of Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. She married Rev. Donald Gordon, pastor of Harrington Presbyterian Church, Zorra, Oxford County, Ontario.

Helen Murray was a student of the Huguenot Seminary from 1874 until 1875 after which she left to study for four years from 1876 at the Midland Seminary, where she would later work. Ellie went on to become the principal of Midland Seminary at Graaff-Reinet from 1875 until 1893. She travelled to Europe and America for a year in 1880, and, upon her return, took up missionary duties relating to education. In the 1881 edition of the Huguenot Seminary catalogue Helen is mentioned as having been ready to do whatever was in her power to aid the cause of education within South Africa. In the journal of the Midland Seminary, it is noted that following the opening of the Huguenot Seminary in Wellington the desire for similar institutions was felt in different parts of the country. The education of the female youth of the nation had been largely left up to those who did not consider religion a matter of importance with regards to schooling and training for women across the country and, thus, instruction within this field had been quite superficial in nature. In the face of this, the Dutch Reformed Church is recorded to have stepped up and sought something better which came in the form of the Huguenot Seminary. The foundation and success of this institution in the Cape led to a renewed interest in the education and training of young women in the country.

Helen Murray is spoken of in a Huguenot journal entry as having been at the seminary since its opening and was passionate about teaching as well. Due to this she was asked to open a school at Graaff-Reinet. She was assisted in the teaching department by Miss Phillips, the daughter of a missionary, and in the boarding department, by her mother, the widow of the Rev Andrew Murray. The school was opened on the 18 April 1876 with thirty five students. Following the school’s opening, Maria Murray joined her daughter at her home to alleviate some of her responsibilities, especially regarding the housekeeping, but she also offered guidance from an intellectual level. In the following months however it seems that there was no minister present in the area as well as a lack of missionaries to take on the new work. In response to this Helen took charge of both the Midland Seminary, its twenty five boarders and the day school which had similar numbers. She continued her work there until the arrival of Miss Thayer and Miss Ayres six months later. Helen however took on the role of principle once again in 1880 due to Miss Thayer being called to return to America.

She died unmarried on December 20, 1937. 


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