Patrick Lynch’s Tribute in Memory of Denis Murphy, Ballydaly

Among the wonderful memories recalled by many of the late Denis Murphy – Patrick Lynch, a native of Ballydaly, shared a very special tribute to Denis which we share here:
“Denis Murphy, our next-door neighbor, was my first boss. Well, not my first boss, that would be my dad, but for sure my first cash-paying boss. 10p per day.
Denis, and his brother Tadghie lived next door, and both were idols to us. They drove Cortinas, had long-ish hair, listened to Mudd and Slade, turned up to Mass fashionably late (and more outrageously, left early), and read ‘The Sunday World’. I wanted to be them when I grew up.
Denis was, and still is, one of my favorite people. Back then, he was a god. He drove a blue MK 3 Cortina, always at considerable speed, later progressing to a blue Mazda 323. We would hear him pull out of his house and in no time fly past our place in a speedy blur of blue.
I have the vaguest memories of Denis and Tadghie’s mom, Hannah, but remember her fondly. Sadly, she passed when I was very young, leaving the Murphy men to fend for themselves. They had the kind of house I could just walk straight into without even knocking, and frequently did. Pat, their dad, was a gentleman. He often made me a cup of tea with some store-bought brown bread, (a novelty for me), and answered my many, many questions.
One evening I popped in and their family friend, Gerry Shovlin, had stopped by for dinner. Gerry was sporting an odd hat, and at one point Denis reached over and pulled it off, revealing a freshly shaved head. Gerry was mortified and we all howled with laughter.
I was in Poland when Pat passed and I remember being terribly saddened. He was the kindest of men.
An early memory (when I would have been about 10 years old) was the day Denis laid the foundation for his home. Denis decided to build next to his dad, though the plot came with the penalty of being slightly closer to the Lynch Mob. That home proved to be a foundation of sorts for me in many ways, and we were really blessed to have neighbors like the Murphys.
On ground-break day, a JCB dug out the trenches, and tradition called for every able man from the neighborhood to turn up, mix concrete, and lay the foundations. To my very young self, this was a huge event. I remember it as a sunny Sunday, with lots of people and tea, and John Corkery and I buzzing around with excitement.

As the house progressed, Denis employed me as a gofer of sorts. Sometimes he would create jobs, such as moving one pile of bricks from one location to another, then moving them back to their original location. Mostly I just made tea. Over time, the house seemed to grow around us. Soon, there were walls, then a roof, then the walls were plastered and ready for paint. It was fascinating for me to see the developments, even if I was impatient to see how a home could result from all the chaos.
A home it became, and Sheila was our newest neighbour, soon to be followed by their own family. Still my first, and at that point only, paying employer, my services had now expanded into babysitting. I didn’t just want to babysit of course. They had an extensive collection of rally videos, so when Denis and Sheila popped over to the Bush Bar for a few pints on Fridays, a collection of Lynches and Corkerys descended to watch Billy Coleman take on Jimmie McRae or Austin McHale. Upon returning home, tea would be made and we would stay watching the action into the early hours.
One particular night we had rented ‘Blazing Saddles’ and all Murphy, Lynch and Cork men present wept with laughter at the ‘beans and fireside’ scene. Occasionally this scene will pop up on social media, and I am immediately and fondly swept back to that warm kitchen, laughing until I could barely breathe. Such memories.
The kids got older, robbing me that income stream, but Denis apparently still needed someone to make more tea. I spent many teenage summers laying concrete or doing tasks that involved moving something heavy from one place to another, normally in the rain and gagging for a cigarette.
For some reason, I never smoked in front of Denis.
One Christmas, my dad decided we needed a pool table. His brood required entertaining, and the scarcely used sitting room seemed a decent place to convert to a youth club. Not without ambition, he found materials from a number of sources and enlisted Denis as the man to make it happen.
When school ended for Christmas break, I was with Denis in his garage every day. Surrounded by ornate and carefully fashioned kitchen cabinets, (his main occupation at the time) we put together a pool table. Uninterested with the normal formulae defining the table (width be half its length, etc.), we drilled, cut, tacked, and finally emerged with a pool table that was designed to fit atop the dining room table in the sitting room. That Christmas break we played pool all day long, and often late into the night. Denis would drop by every now and then to check on his creation, and perhaps have a cup of tea and a game.
When I left school, requiring an early Monday morning trip to Cork every week, Denis was often my ride. In the back of his pristine red diesel Jetta, I would sleepily drift off as Morning Ireland played on the radio, and all too soon to be woken in Cork. He had that Jetta for ages, always kept immaculate.
As time dictates, one moves away, and distance accumulates. When I first left, I used to hitch home every Friday and walk the last mile. Sheila once told me her son Kevin used to see me walk past with a backpack and always associated that with me coming back from some faraway place. I was a frequent visitor over the years, and it looked like Denis and Sheila hadn’t changed a bit. They were a very consistent part of my returns home from afar: Denis was always curious as to what I was up to, and paternally offered some encouragement (or dismay!).
When my Dad died, both Denis and Tadghie were at our house that very night. It had not occurred to me at the time, but when Denis and Tadghie had been growing up, my dad had been their neighbour and influence. He was an important part of their lives, and it warms me to know this, just as Denis was an important part of ours. This recurring circle of good people playing generational roles fills me with optimism.
Somewhat recently, Denis walked his daughter down the aisle. Even though I was not there, I told my mom before the wedding that I would have loved to have attended. As it turns out, Denis made mention of my mom in his speech, saying he was so glad to have had her nearby for support as they were rearing their children. Just as I so often went to see Denis when I was a lad, often spending the day in his home, a generation later, his kids came to ours, repeating a cycle.
Our family was his family, as his daughter recently mentioned to me.
On a recent trip home, my mom accompanied me to Millstreet, with the compulsory tour around the old neighbourhood. Part of the trip involved knocking on a door or two and popping in for a cup of tea and perhaps a biscuit (much to my horror, without first calling ahead: it is a generational thing I think!).
Happily for me, one of the doors was the Murphy door, and Denis was in, with a kettle soon on the boil. Biscuits were found, and we sat around, catching up. He showed me his shed, as tidy as expected with a great big motorcycle right in the middle. He seemed utterly content.
Gone far too soon, Denis will be missed by so many. To the Lynch family, he was a neighbour, friend, confidant, mentor, visitor, tea maker, listener, joker, craftsman. To others, a husband, father, brother, friend, colleague.
To all, his smile came easily and quickly.
The photo above is borrowed from a family WhatsApp group. My Mom stands between Denis and Sheila, on what must have been one of the happiest days of his life. It is a sunny day, and I can imagine the conversation before, during and after that photo. A few compliments flowing, some conversation about how lucky they were with the weather, and likely some discussion about time flying by. Perhaps a comment about how his dad and my dad would have loved the day. No shortage of laughter.
Like his Dad, Denis was the kindest of men. His final two weeks were spent surrounded by his loved ones, reminiscing, telling stories, and leaving no words unsaid.
I am sure there would have been a joke or two about seeing Pat, Andy and Jerry, and that is a comforting thought.
RIP Denis. Thanks for always being there.”

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