Witness to a Century of Change

7 06 2008

This site will contain the text of the memoirs of my late father Murray McGregor, who was born in Worcester, Cape Province, on 26 May 1908, when the Province was still a colony of Great Britain. He died in 2002, having lived through two World Wars, the unification of the four British colonies into the Union of South Africa, the exit of apartheid South Africa from the British Commonwealth of Nations in 1961, when it became a republic, and its increasing isolation from the rest of the world, and then the birth of a new, non-racial democratic country after April 1994, which once again joined the British Commonwealth of Nations.

He was in many ways a man ahead of his time and also in so many ways a man very much of his time. His memoirs will show him to be a man of deep compassion and insight, with a sometimes firm grip on his own position in life and sometimes a less firm grip on that. He was a man of principle which earned him many friends and admirers and also some enemies, and it also made him sometimes seem quite stern and unbending. At other times his lively sense of humour would shine through to the delight of all who loved him , and we were many who did.

Blessed with a photographic memory he was a mine of information and could remember masses of facts. This made him a formidable subject teacher, especially in his favourite subject of history. It also made him an expert on ships and shipping, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of ships of the Royal Navy, especially his great love, the famous Four-Funnelled Cruisers.

Margery McGregor

The portrait shown above was painted by Will Macnae in 1987, some months after the death of his beloved Margery (left), who died in December 1986. They had been married 51 years.

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

From John Masefield’s “Sea Fever”, one of my father’s favourite poems.

Two themes run strongly through my father’s life: the sea, in a rather romanticised way often, and the Christian faith. He was deeply religious and committed to spreading the Word and the life of faith. In addition to these two themes he had a deeply-held belief in personal growth, that all people in whatever circumstances, can be better, can grow in knowledge and wisdom. This belief flowed directly out of his Christian convictions.

In practical terms this belief in human growth led to his commitment to missionary work which took up most of his life. So the sub-title he gave to these memoirs is:

Murray McGregor’s Missionary and Maritime Memories

Page One of the Manuscipt

Page One of the Manuscipt