Sunday 21 January 2018

A true Dub who loved his pint and a crossword - tributes for Johnny Murphy

Johnny Murphy 1944 - 2016

Johnny Murphy as Joey ‘The Lips’ in ‘The Commitments’.
Johnny Murphy as Joey ‘The Lips’ in ‘The Commitments’.
Johnny Murphy (right) as Estragon in ‘Waiting for Godot’. Photo: Marc O’Sullivan
Johnny Murphy with Ruth McCabe, Brendan Gleeson and Mick Lally in ‘The Man From Clare’

Luke Byrne, Ryan Nugent and  Melanie Finn

Commitments star Johnny Murphy, aka Joey 'The Lips', was remembered as a "one-of-a-kind Dubliner" and "a gentleman" who "loved his pint and his crossword".

Murphy, who beat cancer five years ago, passed away this week following a short illness.

The popular actor and singer died at the age of 72 at St James's Hospital in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Tributes poured in from friends and former co-stars.

Johnny Murphy (right) as Estragon in ‘Waiting for Godot’. Photo: Marc O’Sullivan
Johnny Murphy (right) as Estragon in ‘Waiting for Godot’. Photo: Marc O’Sullivan

Oscar-winner Glen Hansard, aka Outspan from the 1991 movie, described him as a "beautiful man and a true gent".

Murphy was chosen to play unlikely Romeo Joey 'The Lips' Fagan by The Commitments director Alan Parker.

The role had originally been intended to go to musician Van Morrison.


Roddy Doyle described him as "a real Dublin head".

Dave Finnegan, who played off-the-wall drummer Mickah Wallace, said he could picture Murphy up in heaven "with his Suzuki looking for Wilson Pickett".

"He played the role of Joey to perfection. He was a great actor - he always kept his feet on the ground," he added.

Murphy was also an accomplished stage actor and toured extensively with ­Dublin's Gate Theatre in its acclaimed production of Waiting For Godot.

His last performance was in a 2011 production that toured around Ireland.

Last night, director of The Gate Michael Colgan remembered him as "a great friend and a great actor".

"He was quite simply a one-of-a-kind Dubliner," he said.

"We travelled to China and Australia.

"Johnny was fantastic company - he loved having a pint and doing the crossword.

"He also had a great sense of humour. I asked him to go and see the Great Wall of China and he said: 'Michael, I have a wall in my back garden in Drimnagh, I'm not travelling two hours to see another wall.' He was a great actor and a true talent."

Murphy's nephew Peter Reid told the Herald he was "amazing and charming" and shared some traits with Joey Fagan. "He was just as charismatic off-stage as he was on-stage," he said.

"He was a great person to be around. He could charm anyone and was certainly charming towards the women, who liked him back. He was a very bright man and will be dearly missed."

Unlike his character in the legendary film, he couldn't actually play the trumpet in real life - nor could he ride a scooter.

"That was all fake. The reason he crashed it in a scene in the movie is because he couldn't actually ride it and they decided to keep that in," Reid said.

Murphy started off performing as a teenager and his nephew said it was rare for an actor to have worked for his entire career. "He was never out of work in all those 50 years, which is just extraordinary," he said.

Last night, the actor's friends were raising a glass in his ­honour at the Inchicore United Workmans Club, a venue he frequented for almost half a century.

"He was very outgoing and full of life," childhood friend and neighbour Sean White told the Herald. "He was in here almost every day until he got sick.

"We were like brothers, I lived in 123 Benmadigan Road in Drimnagh and he lived 124. There were no walls, we were in the pram together and both been coming in here since 1967," he said.

Mr White, Gerry Doherty, Paul Clifford, Dominic Drum and Mick Winters all gathered to tell stories about their friend at his favourite haunt, which will also be the venue for his funeral this Friday.

"John didn't believe in religion," the group were quick to point out.

"His brother Archie is getting on to the secretary here to organise the funeral."

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