Performance of new carol is widow's Christmas wish come true

A new Christmas carol written by a retired widow from Largs was performed for the first time at Paisley Abbey this morning, fulfilling a wish she had never dreamed would be granted.

Mrs Catherine Murray with the Paisley Abbey choristers
Mrs Catherine Murray with the Paisely Abbey choristers who sang her carol Christmas Morning

Catherine Murray, an 82 year old from Largs and her daughter Fiona White were at the historic Paisley Abbey to hear her new carol performed by the Paisley Abbey Choristers in front of hundreds of people at a Christmas carol service for the ACCORD Hospice.

The surprise performance came after Mrs Murray wrote to the Church of Scotland with a Christmas wish. Tucked inside the envelope, along with her letter, were the words and music for ‘Christmas Morning’, a new carol she had written herself.

Mrs Murray wrote: "I thought perhaps the children might like to hear a carol meant especially for them...I will be 83 soon and would love to hear this Carol being sung by a wee group of children."

Her letter was so touching, the minister at Paisley Abbey, Rev Alan Birss, agreed to help make Catherine's wish come true.

Mrs Murray said she could not have asked for a more perfect place or occasion to hear here carol sung for the first time.

“I honestly feel like I’m in a dream. This is almost unreal,” she said. “I can’t put into words what it means to me to hear my carol sung in Paisley Abbey by such a wonderful group of singers.

“I love children and I love music so this couldn’t have been more perfect. The children’s voices were amazing,”

After the service Mr Birss said:

“We were delighted to be able to make it possible for Mrs Murray to hear her carol sung by the choristers in the Abbey.

“It is a very lovely tune, very easy to listen to and it fitted beautifully into the carol service.”

The Abbey’s choir is renowned for its musical excellence, and Musical Director Professor George McPhee agreed to arrange a special arrangement of Catherine’s ‘Christmas Morning’ for the choristers to sing to Catherine and her family as part of a service for the Accord Hospice.

Prof McPhee, who has been Musical Director at Paisley Abbey for 53 years, said the choristers will be happy to perform Mrs Murray’s carol again.

“The choristers immediately took to it and they found it very singable and very appealing,” he said.

“Obviously Mrs Murray has an intuitive gift for writing melodies and I hope that others will take it up.”

Mrs Catherine Murray with minister, music director and the  Paisely Abbey choristers
Mrs Catherine Murray with Rev Alan Birss, Professor George McPhee, her daughter Fiona White and the Paisely Abbey choristers

Originally from Gourock, Mrs Murray ran a bed and breakfast in Crieff with her husband James for 10 years after his retirement from the Glasgow police force. Mr Murray was originally from Crieff and the couple met there as teenagers when she was there on holiday with her family.

“He was 12 and I was 13,” she says. The bike chain came off my bike and he offered to fix it. But he had a broken leg himself. It was quite romantic.”

The sweethearts kept contact by letter during their teen years, continuing throughout Mr Murray’s national service. They married and have a daughter, Fiona.

After Mr Murray died in 2002, Mrs Murray then moved to Largs, where she attends St Johns Church. She wrote the carol in 2010, one of several songs, she wrote after a period of ill health, when she says the words and music simply came together in her mind.

This was the first time one of her songs has been performed in public..

The couple’s daughter, Fiona White came to the Abbey to enjoy the carol service with her mother. Ms White said:

“I’m so proud of my mum. She is always saying she is not musical and she is not as good as her sisters, but this proves she is.

“The choir sang beautifully and there will be no stopping her now. My mother is some kid.”

Mrs Murray and daughter Fiona White share a smile during the carol service
Mrs Murray and daughter Fiona White share a smile during the carol service