2015 marks the centenary of the death of James Murray, the first Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. Murray’s work as a lexicographer is well known, but there was a great deal more to him than lexicography. We are therefore marking the anniversary with an occasional series of articles highlighting other aspects of his life and achievements.
Throughout his life Murray was a devout member of the Congregational Church: not only devout, but also very active. Already in his teens he was a Sunday school teacher in his home town of Denholm, and he was soon also giving addresses and sermons. After he took up a teaching post at Mill Hill School—a well-known school for the sons of Nonconformists—in 1870, he gave many sermons in the school chapel. Former Mill Hill boys recalled the vividness of his preaching and reading; one recalled his reading of the biblical passage about the confrontation between Elijah and the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel (which was in fact one of his favourite readings: ‘I never tire of reading it’, he later said). ‘How he scorched them. Why, I am sure many boys of that period felt convinced that Elijah sure had a red beard and wore a scarlet hood.’