Thursday 19 September 2019

President Higgins leads tributes to award-winning playwright Tom Murphy as he passes away at 83

President Michael D Higgins conferred the Golden Torc on Tom Murphy at his home in Dublin. Photo: Maxwells
President Michael D Higgins conferred the Golden Torc on Tom Murphy at his home in Dublin. Photo: Maxwells

Sasha Brady and Maggie Armstrong

Playwright Tom Murphy has passed away at 83.

The award-winning playwright was honoured with the honour of the Golden Torc and the title of 'Saoi Aodana' in 2017 for his contribution to Irish literature.

He worked closely with The Abbey Theatre and Druid Theatre and is famous for a body of work which includes, 'A Whistle in the Dark', 'The Sanctuary Lamp', 'The Gigli Concert' and 'Famine'.

In a statement, President Michael D Higgins said that Murphy's contribution to Irish theatre is "immeasurable and outstanding".

"His themes were not only those which had influenced the very essence of Irishness, immigration, famine and loss - they were universal in their reach," he said.

"From the early beginnings of his writings in Tuam, Tom Murphy produced a unique and often provocative body of work. He was above all the great playwright of the emigrant, more than anyone capturing, in a poignant, creative way, the transience that is at the heart of the emigrant experience.

"It was such a joy to meet Tom so many times over the years, and a particular pleasure for any of us who have been privileged to call him our friend."

In a statement, the Druid Theatre said it had lost a "friend, colleague, great Irish writer and a great man of the theatre".

"Our thoughts tonight are with his wife Jane, with Mary, Bennan, Johnny, Nell & the extended Murphy family."

Born in 1935 in Tuam, Murphy has spoken about the "outrage" he felt growing up against the class system and the church. His father was a carpenter, and his family of 10 brothers and sisters was "decimated" by emigration. This outrage shot through his first plays.

London critic Kenneth Tynan felt Murphy was "the kind of playwright you wouldn't like to meet in a dark theatre," the statement added.

Murphy's wife, the actor Jane Brennan, fell in love with him for this. "He was mad, bad and dangerous to know. Of course that's irresistible, isn't it?" she once said.

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