Saturday, 4 May 2019

Murray McCheyne Thomson (1922 - 2019)

Tribute to ‘a renaissance man of peace’

It is sad to hear about the passing at the age of 96 of our dear Friend (Quaker) Murray McCheyne Thomson on May 2nd, 2019, in Ottawa, Ontario.

He was born in China, raised by parents who where Christian missionaries, came to Canada as a child, grew, joined the Society of Friends, and persistently advocated for world peace to the end of his life. I really admired him, as did many here.

I last saw him on March 30, 2019 at the 'Say No to NATO' demonstration in downtown Ottawa during a blizzardy snowy cold day. He came out on his walker. I took pictures of Murray and briefly talked about the Big Issues of society — of disarmament and peace.

We have had a long relationship with Murray over the years. I first met him in Saskatchewan in the early1950s when Murray worked as an adult educator. We met again in the 1970s at the Grindstone Island Peace Education Centre, where Murray was one of the founders. (See his paper below.)

Despite protesting the Canadian military, Murray was decorated as an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2001, and the Pearson Medal of Peace in 1990 from the United Nations Association of Canada. He is renowned for co-founding 7 peace organizations from 1976 to 2012.

In 1982 Murray was one of the signatories with me to a UN appeal at the International Doukhobor Intergroup Symposium, Castlegar, BC, sent to the Second Special Session on Disarmament of the United Nations.

In October 2008 we published Murray’s proposal that the traditional Canadian peace groups — Doukhobors, Mennonites and Quakers — unite to stimulate an anti-NATO initiative, to promote a world without wars.

Murray indeed will be missed. He played the violin, had a great connection to people, with lots of enthusiasm and authority as well as humour. He was a renaissance man of peace — and he and his deeds need to be remembered so as to help us save our civilization from the scourge of wars.

I believe we all need to follow his example — stand up and be counted in searching and working for world peace and social justice. With the Doomsday Clock of Scientists at one minute to midnight, the need to speak out today is very urgent!

Update — On Oct 23, 2019, a Celebration of Life gathering for Murray was held at the First Unitarian Church, Ottawa. I posted 63 photos. Around 200 people turned out including many peace activists, such as Ernie Regehr, Earl Turcotte, Brent Patterson, Ken Kensky Billings, Nick Aplin, Budd Hall, Edward Gertler, Dennis Gruending, Eric J. Schiller, Matt Legge, Jean Christie, Gordon Breedyk, Evelyn Voigt, Fergus Watt, Randy Weekes, Susan McMaster, Colin Stuart, Debbie Grisdale, Mary Girard, Judith Brown, and Sybil Grace. The program included a Memorial Meeting, Reception, and an evening gathering at a Westboro Pub. The Memorial brought forth many praises to the late Murray Thomson — a 'living legend' who was intellectually committed to peaceful social change in creating a world without wars.

By and about Murray

Murray Thomson, Wikipedia

Murray Thomson, Ottawa Quakers active in peace work (a selection),

Fonds RC0129 - Murray Thomson fonds, 1941-2011 (Creation), Archives and Collections, McMaster University Library, Hamilton, Ontario.

Murray Thomson. ‘The Relevance of our Testimonies to Peace’, Symposium Proceedings: International Doukhobor Intergroup Symposium. Castlegar, British Columbia, Canada, June 25-28, 1982. Pages 58-59. Koozma J. Tarasoff (Coordinator and Editor).

Murray Thomson. The Grindstone Era: Looking Back, Looking Ahead, The Canadian Quaker History Journal, No. 66, 2001, pages 12-15. — Paper given at the 2001 Annual Meeting of the CFHA

Murray Thomson. Minutes to midnight : Why more than 800 Order of Canada recipients call for nuclear disarmament (PDF). Ottawa, ON. 2005.

Murray Thomson. ‘Toward a Culture of Peace’, Press Release from the Religious Society of Friends: 30 August 2006 — Announcement for the Gardner Lecture at the Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends, Winnipeg, Manitoba, given by Murray: 'Toward a Culture of Peace: Can We Afford to Pay the Price?'

Koozma J. Tarasoff. Ottawa Peace Festival Provides Hope for an Ailing World : 1st Ottawa Peace Festival 2007 Review. October 3, 2007.

Murray Thomson. Traditional Peace Groups Explore Withdrawal from NATO. October 24, 2008, Spirit Wrestlers website.

Koozma J. Tarasoff. Peacemaker Murray Thomson at 90, plus 108 photographs, 55 showing Murray. December 10, 2012. Spirit Wrestlers website.

Age is More : Murray Thompson’ (3.5 min video), The Revera and Reel Youth Age is More Film Project. Youtube, July 3, 2014.

Walk with Us, (poster) Ottawa Peace Festival 2015.

Nuclear war still threatens world, experts say; disarmament only solution, CBC News, May 17, 2016 — Murray Thomson has over 800 Order of Canada winners supporting disarmament in new book.

Peace activist says it's time to speak up about nuclear disarmament, BC Almanac, Episode 300249841 (22:39 min. audio), CBC Radio, May 16, 2016 — Can Canada help lead the world to nuclear disarmament? An Order of Canada winner says yes — but the people need to speak up, and the politicians need to listen.

Murray Thomson (#151): 150+ Canadians who contributed to peace. Peace Quest, July 2, 2017.

Koozma J. Tarasoff. ‘Music Against War’ versus CANSEC — May 30, 2018, plus 96 photos, 2 showing Murray. June 4, 2018. Spirit Wrestlers website.

Koozma J. Tarasoff. No to NATO and War — Yes to Peace and Progress, plus 40 photos, 6 showing Murray, taken in Ottawa. March 3, 2019, updated March 30, 2019. Spirit Wrestlers blog.

Dennis Gruending. 'Peace activist Murray Thomson dies at 96'. May 5, 2019.

Murray Thomson, co-founder Project Ploughshares, 1922-2019 : requiescal in pace, Project Ploughshares, May 6, 2019.

Cresky, Jim. Murray Thomson: from RCAF pilot to pacifist, The Hill Times, May. 8, 2019

On the loss of Murray Thomson …a fine fellow with a great sense of humour, PeaceQuest, May 17, 2019. — Links to 5 more articles.


  1. Thank you Koozma for this wonderful tribute to Murray Thompson; a remarkable worker for peace and disarmament. As you said "We all need to follow his example". Ed Lehman, Regina

  2. Brent Patterson6 May 2019 at 05:24

    Thank you for this!!

  3. We lead by example. Blessings to Murray and thanks to Koozma for the great posting...Kman

  4. Excellent piece Koozma - thank you! What a privilege it has been to know Murray and spend time with him - never enough time, of course, but precious time.

  5. Chaiwat Satha-Anand6 May 2019 at 13:38

    Murray's passing was a great loss that can be felt by those working for peace all over the world. I have known Murray for more than 35 years.

    When I wanted to start activities that were to become the foundation for Peace Information Center at Thammasat University in Bangkok and no one or organization offered any support but for the American Friends Service Committee and the Canadian Peace Fund, the latter through the initiation of Murray Thomson.

    Just want to share with you all how we in this part of the world will cherish the memory of this dear peace loving global activist and a dear friend.

    Rest In Peace, Murray.

    With much love and respect,

    Chaiwat Satha-Anand
    Peace Information Center
    Thammasat University

  6. Kudos on this wonderful tribute to a great nonviolent peace activist and leader! So many of us in Canadian peace movement were inspired and mentored by Murray Thomson. Without Murray's guidance and his commitment to nonviolence, initiatives like Canadian Department of Peace, Civilian Peace Service, Nuclear Weapons Ban, Ottawa Peace Festival, and Hiroshima A-Bomb commemorations in Ottawa would have been never realized. His 'Good News Service' newsletter beamed with optimism, its last issue covered final words of colleagues Paul Dewar and Patrick Lane, declaring values of love, truth and selfless service.

  7. “renaissance man of peace”. Very nicely put.

  8. What a beautiful tribute to him, Koozma. Thank you!

  9. Anton Andonov, PhD8 May 2019 at 12:42

    Nice piece in your blog, especially the reference "renaissance man of piece". ... any effort for peace, whether world known or not, is a worthy contribution so kudos for that.

    Anton Andonov, PhD
    Max Rady College of Medicine
    Department of Medical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases
    University of Manitoba

  10. Adrian Bishop8 May 2019 at 12:45

    ... Thank you for your post re Murray. I had lost track of him, largely because of my meandering on this planet. It was both joyful and sad to see yours and Carl’s posts in the last few days.

    You blog site is quite interesting. I think I could get lost in it for days! During the time I was active with Murray I met Diana Wright, the owner of Grindstone who had donated it to Friends. Her husband was Jim ‘JFC Wright’. ...

  11. Thanks, Koozma. Such a great tribute you have prepared.

  12. Hans Sinn, Perth, Ontario10 May 2019 at 19:33

    Thank you the news of Murray's passing. He as been and will remain an example, way beyond his age, to us all in the local,national and international peace movement.

    I had just sent him a friendly reminder of his organizing in 1981 the founding, on Grindstone Island, of Peace Brigades International, on behalf of which we will be having a Dinner tomorrow, Saturday May 4th 2019. It is the Guatemala Stove Project - one of the upshots of PBI.

  13. Arlette Franciere, Ottawa, Ontario10 May 2019 at 19:34

    I am awfully sorry to hear about the passing of “a renaissance man of peace” and appreciated your sending me your tribute to your friend. Murray was a remarkable man and you will miss him a lot as a talented and cheerful friend and as a man very committed to peace.