Barney Murphy obituary: Popular pub owner, sporting figure and former president of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland

Barney Murphy was a ‘pillar of the Castlebridge community’

Deaglán de Bréadún

One of the most active figures in the business and sporting life of Co Wexford, Barney Murphy, has died at the age of 89.

He was born in St Ibar’s Villas, Castlebridge, on January 24, 1933, and although christened as Bernard, he was universally known as Barney. When Michael Murphy, his father, who worked with WB Nunn grain suppliers, suddenly dropped dead, Barney became the family breadwinner and took up employment with the same company at the age of 17. In the late 1950s, he met and married Margaret Stafford from Wexford town. He later worked in the grain business with Minch Norton at Athy, Co Kildare.

His heart, though, was always in Castlebridge and he rented and later purchased what came to be known as Barney’s Pub, which he ran for several decades, selling it in 1994. As well as supplying drinks, he was also a coal merchant and ran a general food store at the same location. In due course the pub expanded to become a music venue, Barney’s Lounge, with a capacity of 200 people.

In the early 1970s he bought the former parochial house, Como Lodge, which became the home of Barney, Margaret and their seven children.

He also set up a poultry farm, Castlebrand Eggs, which provided considerable local employment and supplied its wares to branches of the L&N supermarket chain across the country.

An active member of the Wexford and District branch of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI), Barney became involved in the federation at national level in 1979 when he was elected to the executive committee. At the national convention in Wexford in May 1980, he was the overwhelming choice of delegates to become the next president of the VFI.

Speaking in Waterford the following November, he said that although publicans were usually blamed for the country’s drink problems, teenagers were buying alcohol in supermarkets, off-licences, wine shops, discos and clubs.

The following January he accused the federation’s Dublin branch of “selfish” and “irresponsible” behaviour for introducing separate price increases for their region. The Dublin publicans responded that their overheads were higher.

Later in the year, following a general increase in the price of a pint, Murphy said the benefit to publicans had been completely eroded by an increase in excise duty and VAT.

In a tribute after his death, the VFI recalled that, during his years as president, Barney “was a keen contributor on a number of key issues of the time, including the cost of renewing a pub licence, revision of licensing laws and drink-driving legislation”.

“Barney proved an affable and resilient president during an era when pubs were the only social outlet in many towns and villages across Ireland. He was extremely popular with the wider membership, who appreciated his dedication and commitment to the VFI.”

In another role, Barney managed the bars and bar staff at Wexford Racecourse, which involved a considerable number of race meetings every year. He was honoured by Wexford Racecourse Supporters Club on his retirement in 2020, after 50 years of service.

In his youth he played hurling and Gaelic football with Shelmaliers, based in Screen, Curracloe and Castlebridge and later in life became a trustee of the club.

He also served as president of the Castlebridge Show, an event devoted to horticulture, agriculture and home industry which is due to take place for the 80th time on August 14 this year. The show committee described him as “a pillar of the Castlebridge community” who “will be sadly missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him”.

Predeceased by his wife Margaret — who passed away in 2017 — Barney is survived by his children Jackie, Sandra, Barry, Claire, Orlagh, Síle and Padraig, his sisters Geraldine and Claire, as well as his grandchildren, great-grandchildren and other relatives.

He died on June 3 and reposed at his home last Sunday. This was followed the next day by removal to St Ibar’s Church, Castlebridge, for Funeral Mass, with burial afterwards in Castlebridge Cemetery.

Speaking at the funeral, organised by Macken Funeral Directors, Barry Murphy described his father as “a colossus”, adding that he had never heard the words “gentleman” and “generosity” used so often as in the previous few days.

“Dad instilled in all of us the essence of family values, loyalty and respect, which was always seen in our home. Dad always told us to be proud of where you come from, as he himself had immense pride in his beloved Castlebridge,” he said.