He is 80 years of age, yet his memories of Athy of his youth are as fresh as the day break. Born in 1933 Gerry Murphy, formerly of Grangemellon, now lives in retirement in County Tipperary. Schooling in the Christian Brothers at St. John’s Lane with Tommy Tuohy, George Taaffe and many others, was a relatively short lived affair which ended when he commenced an apprenticeship in Reid Lalors of Leinster Street. The grocery cum pub was in fact owned and managed by Michael Lalor who had succeeded the previous owner, Mr. Reid. However, for the older generations the premises was always known as Reid Lalors. Gerry, as was customary in those days, ‘lived in’ and received wages of ten shillings per week. A keen Gaelic footballer he played for Levitstown and later for Athy, securing a place on the town’s senior team in 1955. It was his love of Gaelic football and the incompatible social hours of the job which finally lead him to leave Athy in the mid 1950s. Finding that he couldn’t get off work to play for the local club he gave up the job and two days later took the emigrant boat to England.
Working in a number of pubs followed by a spell in Fords of Dagenham eventually led Gerry to join British Rail as a district relief clerk. This required him working around a large region of the English mainland as and when required, travelling by motor bike for what he remembers was a well paid job which enjoyed generous travelling allowances.
After 12 months with British Rail Gerry joined the Royal Air Force for a five year spell, the first two and a half years of which he spent in Germany. He was stationed in Bruggan, the biggest bomb command in Europe and while there he took to long distance running. Youthful success of Gaelic football obviously stood well to him as he was chosen for the R.A.F. cross country team competing in several international events. In 1961 he achieved triple success as 500 meters R.A.F. champion, 3000 meters steeple chase winner as well as succeeding in the 1500 meters race. Injuries put paid to his athletic career and in August 1962 Gerry married Catherine from Wexford. They had met in the National Ballroom Dublin while Gerry was home on leave. The final 2½ years of his R.A.F. service as a policeman was spent in Halton near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.
Demobbed in 1963 at the end of his R.A.F. service Gerry and his bride went to London where for 1½ years he operated a betting shop in Southwick. Another change of career soon however beckoned and for the next ten years Gerry was a member of the London fire brigade. Finally in 1972 he returned to Ireland to open a pub in Golden, Co. Tipperary where he continued as landlord until he sold the pub in 1997. During his Tipperary days Gerry trained greyhounds and while no famous greyhounds were ever based in his kennels, his dogs won a number of coursing cups in Newcastlewest and over the County Tipperary open course in New Inn.
Gerry’s parents were Jack Murphy of Grangemellon and Kathleen Murphy of Dublin. His two sisters Pauline and Pattie are married and living in Dublin, while his brothers George and Jack live in Athy and North Kildare.
Gerry’s father Jack was a volunteer in the old I.R.A. and if memory serves me right he tended for many years the memorial erected to the memory of Sylvester Sheppard, an I.R.A. man shot by Free State troopers at Grangemellon on 5th July 1922. That same day 25 Irregulars (I.R.A. men who refused to accept the Treaty) were captured by Free State troops. His grandfather on his mother’s side was George Murray, a Sergeant Major in the First World War who was an Army champion runner and also an Irish international athlete.
Gerry and his wife Catherine enjoy retirement in Kilshellan, Clonmel. Despite being away from his home town for over 65 years Gerry still retains an interest in Athy, the place where he spent his youthful years pulling pints, filling orders and playing Gaelic football.
A recent enquiry from an interested reader asked where ‘Lynams Row, Athy’ was located. I can’t recall coming across that place name so if you can help let me hear from you.