Farewell ‘old friend’, thank you for the music and positivity


 By Gerry Moran

‘Take care, old friend, and regards to Ka.”

Those were the last words Billy Murphy shared with me some days before his passing on January 25. We bumped into each other, as we often did, in Supervalu in Loughboy. I don’t recall exactly what we spoke about (Man U, the team we both supported, might have been mentioned) except to say that it was positive and uplifting.

Billy Murphy, as everyone and anyone who knew him, epitomised positivity. Always upbeat, always jovial it was always a pleasure to bump into him. You left feeling all the better for the encounter, regardless of whether it was for five minutes or 15.

And always when we met he’d ask after Ka, my wife Kathleen, who Billy had great affection for, not least because he knew Kathleen’s father well, the late Aussie Murphy, and frequently sang in his pub, the Fox And Goose, renowned for music back in the day. Indeed when Brendan Grace passed away I bumped into Billy on the Castle Road. ‘Sad, very sad about Brendan,” he said and perhaps for the first time I saw Billy not so much downbeat but not as upbeat as his normal self.

“And here’s what I’m going to tell you, Gerry, I introduced Brendan Grace to the people of Kilkenny.”

“Really,” I asked more than a little curious.

“I introduced him for his first-time appearance in Kilkenny in none other a venue than the Fox And Goose, your good wife’s home place.”

“You’re joking me, Billy,” I said.

“I’m not and this is how I introduced him: ‘Ladies and gentlemen please put your hands together for a wonderful comedian, Brendan Grace, just back from a very successful world tour.’

“World Tour,” I exclaimed.

“Well, not really, Brendan wasn’t that long on the road and I thought it no harm to give him a bit of a build-up.”

We had a good laugh at that. And if there’s one thing Billy Murphy loved – he loved to laugh. And reminisce. About the good old days even though I wasn’t sure that I had participated in any of those good old days that Billy would reminisce about. Just as I was never sure that I was actually an ‘old friend’ of Billy’s until I realised that everyone was an ‘old friend’ of Billy’s just as Billy was an ‘old friend’ to everyone. And he was.

I had the privilege of performing with Billy in the Watergate Theatre back in 1994. The show was called The Kilkenny Greats and featured Billy, Noel Power, Ollie Kearney, Mike O’Brien, Mary Moore, Patsy O’Dwyer, KB to name but a few and of course Liamy Drennan who has just recently passed away – and I extend  my sincere condolences to the Drennan family.

Liamy and Billy performed together, of course, in the Black Aces and the Aces down the years. Billy Murphy loved the stage and was, as they say, a natural.

I really had no business being on stage with all those greats but the great thing about it was that I got to take some great photos including this one of Billy with his signature smile, and one of Liamy which appeared featured in this paper last December celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Watergate.

And by God but Kilkenny’s musicians have taken a big hit recently: Willie Maher, Andy Murray and now Liamy Drennan and Billy Murphy. For sure there’ll be no shortage of music in that hallowed venue in the sky.

Billy Murphy loved life, loved his family, and my heartfelt sympathy goes out to his wife, Jill, and his two daughters, Liz and Jane. And, boy, but Billy was loved as evidenced by the long queues (the longest I’ve ever witnessed) outside Johnston’s Funeral Home last Monday evening. In the cold and drizzling rain we queued, to pay tribute to Billy Murphy, a man we all loved and who loved us in return.

Rest in peace ‘old friend’. Thank you for the music and your wonderful positivity.

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