Friday, April 7, 1995

Jack Murphy

He must surely be one of the front runners for the unique claim of oldest man in Athy. I realise that is a dangerous suggestion to make particularly given the proximity of St. Vincent's Hospital but I do believe the honour belongs to Jack Murphy. Recently I had the privilege of meeting and talking with Jack, now well ensconced in his 10th decade and still happily married after 62 years. His wife Margaret, originally from Crookstown, has been a particularly kind friend of the local Museum Society and some years ago donated to the Museum original documents relating to her late father Andrew Delaney who died in the First World War.

Jack and Margaret married in 1933, a year after the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin. At that time Jack worked for Duthie Larges in Leinster Street where he had started as a bicycle mechanic in or about 1919. He worked alongside Paddy Mullery for eight and a half years before moving to Jackson Brothers when they started their garage and bicycle business in Leinster Street. He lost a finger as a result of an accident at work and to add insult to injury it also cost him his job. A move back to Duthie Larges saw him working alongside Joe Brophy, Dinny Bergin, Jim Eaton and Jim Kenny who is retired and living in McDonnell Drive.

In the 1920's and onwards the firm of Duthie Larges was an important employer in South Kildare at a time when the only alternative industrial employment was in the brick yards or Minch Nortons. Their busy workshops turned out machinery and farm equipment while the supply and repair of bicycles was an activity as busy even if not as lucrative as the modern day sale and repair of motor cars. A moulding department, carpentry shop, garage and bicycle shop were some of the main departments to be found in Duthie Larges in those days. Skills abounded with bicycle mechanics, garage mechanics, blacksmiths and pattern moulders working side by side in the huge Duthie Large complex.

It is difficult to imagine nowadays but petrol pumps were once sited on the footpaths of the main streets of the town in Duke Street and in Leinster Street. Duthie Larges and Jacksons had petrol pumps in Leinster Street as had Tommy Stynes while Maxwell had petrol pumps in Duke Street, opposite the old Garda Barracks. No need in those leisurely days for pedestrian crossings!

Jack remembers attending the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin with his good friend Paddy Kelly and he proudly wears a souvenir badge of that Eucharist. Coincidentally he lives in Convent View where the houses have on their facades a crest reminiscent, if not an actual replica, of the 1932 Congress medal. Sitting in the living room of his house in Convent View he recalls with remarkable clarity his young days when he lived with his parents in a small house, one of three at the end of the present Plewman's Terrace.

Jack's parents moved from the Kilkenny Road, or Blackparks as it was called, to Mount Hawkins then a wonderland of small laneways and alleys with names now forgotten - New Row, Kelly's Lane, Carrs Court and Porters Row.

Jack's grandfather Pat Dempsey lived in Chapel Hill and was gardener to the Sisters of Mercy. He still vividly remembers the day his Grandfather died in the Convent garden while in the company of his then 8 year old grandson. 84 years later the sadness and pain of that day still grips Jack as he recalls how he watched his grandfather die.

He moved to Chapel Hill into his late grandfather's house with his parents and brothers Paddy and Andy around 1912. Paddy and Andy were later to become hackney men having gained experience with a namesake but no relation Dick Murphy who had a hackney business at William Street. Paddy was to set up his own hackney business at Offaly Street along side Dowlings pub, later Kehoes and now McHughs before emigrating to England.

Jack never left Athy spending a lifetime in Duthie Larges from where he retired in 1979. By the time Jack left his workbench neither a Large nor a Duthie were involved in the business, even though the name has remained a familiar one in the commercial life of Athy.

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