An 'evangelist' who preached the gospel of better farming, writes Gerry Daly
Joe Murray was an evangelist of better farming, not just for the sake of farming people but for the improvement in national wellbeing that an increase in agricultural output would bring.
By his own admission, from early adulthood, he wanted to make a difference.
A native of Roscrea, Co Tipperary, he saw hardship suffered by farmers in the Fifties, and knew that farming could be better. He studied for a degree in Agricultural Science and joined RTE in the Sixties to work on farming programmes with Justin Keating -- and when Keating left RTE in 1969 to become a Labour TD, Joe took over as head of farming programmes. He retired in 2000 but made a brief return a year later to help with the coverage of the national outbreak of foot and mouth disease. Joe saw himself as a conduit between the pioneering researchers who were developing modern farming best practice and his audience of farmers.
His programmes, On the Land and Landmark, ran for over 20 years.
He was also responsible for radio farming programmes, which he delegated to a series of young producers.
Joe Murray had lots of energy and enthusiasm and he communicated that to those around him. Once, when interviewing applicants for the job of producer, one of the applicants became so relaxed that he lay back in his chair and put his feet up on the interview table behind which his three interviewers including Joe were sitting ... whereupon Joe just pushed back his seat and threw up his feet as well! But Joe was a careful listener too, always looking for an angle on an aspect of farming that would make an interesting television programme.
And he was a craftsman about his work, carefully scripting his introductions and links and preparing for interviews. He wasn't a 'hard news' man but he was the kind of journalist who would tell the core story steadily, year in, year out. When Landmark came to the end of its long run, Joe took to radio with gusto. He loved nothing better than to head off with his tape recorder to talk to farmers in their yard, or at the mart, and often remarked how radio freed him of the relatively cumbersome process of making television.
He revelled in his work and was proud of it, and he enjoyed, quietly, the many accolades that came his way as a result. Like others of his generation possessed of the best of motives, Joe set out to make a difference, and a difference he certainly made.
Joe was 74 when he died last Wednesday in St Vincent's Hospital, Dublin, after a short illness. He is survived by his wife Margaret (Toni); daughters, Isobel and Susan; grandchildren, Michael, Maeve, Killian, Katie and Conrad; brothers, Sylvester and Billy; and sister Mary.
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