Obituary: Paddy Murray, Irish journalism giant who was as big as life in print as he was in person
A few years ago, Shay Healy phoned me after the death of a mutual friend and ended the conversation by saying, “They’re choosing from our group now.”
understood what he meant when I was told that Paddy Murray was dead.
I had already heard from another of his friends, James Morrissey, earlier in the week, how Paddy had only a few days left to live. When I forwarded this message to another reporter, he replied, “I’ve been hearing this for 20 years.
Unfortunately, last Thursday morning, it was true.
Paddy’s illnesses, bouts of cancer and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) were, like him, legendary.
He had fought them for 20 years with fiery humor and, since the Covid, very publicly in columns and radio interviews. I was told that as he lay dying in St James’s Hospital in Dublin on Wednesday evening he watched TV coverage of the Russian build-up on Ukraine’s borders and, like a good journalist, said, “They will invade.”
I like to remember Paddy Murray as a quick-witted young journalist and columnist with a big head of curly hair. When I first arrived in the press room of the evening herald I marveled at his intelligence and self-confidence, born of his upbringing at Mount Merrion, Co Dublin, (son of the Chief Executive and President of ESB) and his upbringing at Blackrock College.
School was a sacred subject which could not be sullied by the humor or cynicism conferred on almost all other institutions and people.
Soon we were drinking pints together in The Oval, Higgins’ or The Bachelor, moving in a sleazy circle of news and sports reporters and various “characters” whose full-time occupation seemed to hold the helm.
He recounts in his memoirs under the title “Drinkers turned journalists” how he once broached the subject of alcohol and journalism with a well-known psychologist. “I work in the Independent and there is a huge drinking culture there. Many are drunk at the end of the afternoon. And it’s all about the drink,” Paddy said, describing the situation.
‘I know,’ replied the psychologist, ‘but it’s not journalists who become alcoholics; they are alcoholics who become journalists. People will go for jobs that make their lifestyle and trivialities easier.
Paddy was not an alcoholic; he loved the pub atmosphere and the camaraderie after the paper had been “put to bed”. He had no shortage of deadlines, he was at his desk by 8 a.m. no matter what time he was in a pub or nightclub, and he took his job as seriously as his life. social and its music.
He liked to quarrel in good humor but was “solid” on the national question long before many others. He wouldn’t have a truck with paramilitary violence, nor fellow travelers of any kind. Killing people in the interest of Irish reunification was derided and he launched into a parody of One nation again with the verse ‘An Alsacian Again’.
Paddy tricked us into playing rugby (badly) or made us play with his indoor football team. In a match at the UCD sports center Dermot Morgan, then a budding Fr Trendy, was on our side and the opposition consisted of members of Def Leppard and Spandau Ballet, who beat us badly.
Without ever leaving the “newspaper pubs”, we progressed, over time, to other haunts of the late 1980s: Scruffy Murphy, Dobbins, Lillie’s Bordello. His friend Eamon Carr, the drummer of the Horslips, recalled that he didn’t go to the nightclubs very often, but whenever he did he invariably found Paddy Murray sitting in the middle having a drink. of an enchanted circle.
Paddy left Middle Abbey Street and his old haunts to go work for the youngster daily star, 50pc owned by Independent Newspapers and based in Terenure. Its publisher, evening herald and later the StarMichael Brophy, recalled last week that although Paddy was known as a writer and columnist, he was key to getting the newspaper out on the streets.
“He was so instrumental in bringing it into the ‘new tech’ era and whenever there were issues, he didn’t bat an eyelid, he fixed them,” Brophy said.
Then, with Colm MacGinty, he would go to Brady’s in Terenure to discuss his latest trip overseas or plan to join Jack’s army for whatever football campaign was in sight.
Flipping through his memoirs is like traveling around the world and meeting celebrities in every city. John Wayne at the Gresham Hotel, Madonna in a New York bar, Richard Harris in a Limerick pub, Kim Wilde, Eric Clapton – all in situations from which he draws humor.
He covered an Elton John concert in Belfast, before playing in Dublin. It was a fantastic concert and his review was “enthusiastic”. When Paddy went to the RDS concert, he was told that Elton wanted to see him. He was introduced backstage, where the singer told him, “I just want to thank you for the best, smartest review I’ve ever received.” (There were witnesses.)
His enthusiasm for music was contagious and he particularly admired The Stunning. He and Harry Crosbie were responsible for putting a plaque on the front of Arnotts department store in Abbey Street to commemorate the Beatles concert in 1963 when the building was the Adelphi cinema.
“No matter what life threw at him, he always knew how to bring a smile,” said Brian Farrell, who worked with him in the Sunday world, where he wrote a column for many years. But one such humorless column, “My Brother’s Keeper”, was a defense of his brother, Donald, the Bishop of Limerick, who resigned following the Murphy Report into child abuse by clerks.
“A good man has been reviled. A man whose heart is filled with compassion, who has dedicated his life to God and those less fortunate than himself, who by his own admission has sometimes failed, has been scapegoated by those who should and know better,” he wrote. .
A friend from his days in the Sunday stand, where he was editor from 2003 to 2005, recalls stopping one day in Baggot Street, not only to give a beggar some money, but also to sit down and talk to him. He ended the conversation with a generous gift and said to the man, “I hope you spend it on drink,” knowing full well he was.
When I first met him, he was married to Paula, but their marriage didn’t last. He remarried Connie Clinton, who worked with him as a sportswriter in the Star. “There is one word I discovered late in life which is more important than any other in the English language,” he wrote. “And that word is ‘Dad’. And it’s important when spoken by my daughter [Charlotte].”
After reluctantly ending his association with the Sunday worldPaddy wrote a fun but sometimes heartbreaking column about life, illness and his family for the irish time. Even as he died at the age of 68, he worried that the title of his last column would have to be changed when he died.
Paddy wrote his own epitaph in the closing sentences of his memoir published in 2021, And finally… The life of a journalist in 250 articles“I know some people didn’t like me. I know many have found me arrogant. I know many thought I was never silent. And many others thought of me as a bit of an eejit. But there were some who loved me and some who loved me. I do not care. I didn’t hate anyone and I loved many. Thank you all.”