Thursday, April 16, 1998

May Murphy No. 4 Offaly Street

May Murphy formerly May Kelly of Leinster Street died in Adelaide, Australia last week aged 87 years. She had left No. 4 Offaly Street about 8 years ago to stay with her daughter, Noeleen who had emigrated down under in the 1970’s. Offaly Street in my young days had no less than three Mrs. Murphy’s. Mrs. Joe Murphy who lived in No.3, Mrs. Paddy Murphy who lived across the road in No. 24 and Mrs. May Murphy who lived next door to our own house. Now they are all gone, May being the last to pass away many years after her husband John Joe had died.

I can still recall as a young fellow in Offaly Street together with Teddy and Leo Kelly, Tom Webster and Willie Moore attending my first wake. The deceased was May Murphy’s young husband, John Joe whom I cannot recall other than as a dead man laid out in the front room of No. 4 Offaly Street. We five youngsters self consciously and somewhat apprehensively walked through the front door of Mrs. Murphy’s house that day, knelt at the end of the bed, said some prayers for the dead and before leaving sprinkled holy water over the body. To be in the same room as a corpse even though it was a room crowded with sympathisers was to us youngsters a badge of courage. It was something we could talk about, even boast of, until later years of maturity cloaked us with the awkwardness and repressed silence of teenagers.

That’s my memory of John Joe Murphy. I can’t recall his funeral but I can still picture the scene as we young gurriers tiptoed into the waking room and looked upon the first dead person we had ever seen. John Joe was a former British Army Soldier who had enlisted at the start of World War 2 and had been involved in the retreat from Dunkirk. Indeed, I understand that his involvement in soldiering was very limited after that. I have often heard him described as a powerful footballer in his day as was his brother Joe. Both played for Athy Gaelic Football Club and featured in the 1934 Senior Championship winning side which Joe Murphy captained. John Joe who was a big man played at full back, a position which he also held when he won his first Championship Medal with Athy in 1933. He was still playing in that position in the 1936 team and his brother Joe was again the Captain. I gather that John Joe’s height and strength allied to a competitive streak discouraged many a forward from advancing too close to the goalpost he defended.

May and John had two daughters. Eva was my own age and I remember her for a particularly enjoyable birthday party in her house where as a very young fellow I took notice for the very first time of the fact that girls could be quite enjoyable company. There were several other boys and of course girls also at the party none of whom I can now recall. However, I can still remember the innocent enjoyment of a forfeit game for which the penalty involved the unlucky participant engage in a smooch with a member of the opposite sex. Imagine the embarrassment of that for a young fellow not yet old enough to know when he should be enjoying himself. Eva let me hasten to add was not the cause of my embarrassment. She later married Michael Toft of Kildare and sadly she died at a very young age while living in St. Patrick’s Avenue. Her daughter, Pauline who is now married was in Australia with her granny when Mrs. Murphy died.

May Murphy’s second daughter Noeleen married Denis Reidy, son of the late Garda Sergeant Reidy of Carlow before emigrating to Australia. It was with Noeleen and her family that May Murphy lived for the last eight years of her life.

Very recently I wrote of Mrs. Josephine Gibbons another woman who like May Murphy was widowed at a very young age and had to fend for her young family. Both were great friends over the years and both had to work very hard to give their children the opportunities they got in life. May Murphy worked in Duthie Large’s for as long as I can remember, remaining there until the business closed down. She also worked as a Cashier in the Grove Cinema until it closed its doors to the public.

May like her brother Alex Kelly was an exceptionally good musician. She played the Piano, one of the many instruments which Alex also played during his dance band days. When she left for Australia some years ago, I understand it was for an extended holiday but as time went by, she eventually decided to stay there with her only surviving daughter Noeleen. May was a lovely friendly woman who was always kind and never known to utter a harsh word.

Another who passed away last week and who was buried in St. Michael’s Cemetery on his 86th Birthday was Donegal born, Jim O’Doherty. An Army Officer who married Mona Purcell of William Street, he established an Auctioneering business on his retirement from the Defence Forces. A staunch follower of Gaelic Football, he represented his native County at Senior level and had the privilege of seeing his eldest son, Bryan play on the Kildare Senior Football team.

Athy born May Murphy now lying in Australian soil and Donegal born Jim O’Doherty were once part of Athy’s community life. Their passing will recall for many people times past and other days when the older generation of today shared a world of young dreams.

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