This was a lecture given by Professor Rod Edmond on a visit to New Zealand telling how his ancestors came from Scotland to New Zealand, in one case via a circuitous route through the New Hebrides.  Several members of the Presbyterian Archives attended this lecture.  The source of the record for Charles Murray’s time in Ambrim in the New Hebrides was a journal he kept for six months between New Year and his departure from the island after the Presbyterian Synod.  The original diary is part of the collection at the Presbyterian Archives, which was acknowledged with thanks.

Charles Murray was the son of a tenant farmer from Aberdeenshire (Did he ever cross paths with my own ancestors from the same region?)  He followed his brother, William Murray, to Ambrim where William died of tuberculosis, a Scottish disease, not a tropical disease.  Charles suffered from bouts of malaria while at Ambrim.  During the time he lost his wife Flora in childbirth which affected him badly.  It was an unhappy time for him.

At the same time he fell into conflict with a local chief, Malnain (spelling?).  The Ambrim people have a ceremony of status, mage, pronounced like ‘maaz’ apparently, where a pig is sacrificed over carved images.  The chief was organising a ceremony where the sacrifice of pigs would raise him to the supreme degree.  Charles Murray opposed the ceremony as explicitly pagan.

At the same time one of the chief’s wives had been involved in adultery with a man from another village and peaceful relations had to be negotiated.  The chief was under enough pressure that to restore normal relations between genders he forbade women from going to the mission school.  Murray came under taboo and was virtually isolated from the goodwill of the community that supported him.  The Presbyterian Missionary Synod removed him from the island.  He was shipwrecked on Malo, another island in the New Hebrides group.  The experience left him broken in mind.  He would recover and go on to parish ministry in New Zealand until his death.

Over the century the island changed and became Christianised.  The missionaries take on a status of being culture-heroes, bringers of the new custom of the islands, a status not diminished as the missionaries become figures leading to decolonisation.  When Professor Edmond visited Ambrim and the village of Ranon where the Murray brothers served members of the families of descendents were affected to learn what their ancestors had done.  They took the initiative and held a ‘Sorry’ ceremony to reconcile what they had done to the professor’s ancestors.  They absorbed the missionary story and made it part of their own whakapapa, or genealogy, of their world-view.

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