Wexford man Willie Murphy, a soil scientist who made a successful career from letting the grass grow under his feet, was joined by family, friends and former colleagues at a party in the Farmer’s Kitchen in Wexford to celebrate his 90th birthday.
The Tilladavins, Tomhaggard native now living in Mulgannon, was congratulated by colleagues who worked with him at An Foras Tanúntais and Teagasc at Johnstown Castle and abroad from the 1950s up to his retirement some years ago.
Among them was Dr Noel Culleton, former chief executive of Johnstown who called him “the father of research scientists” and “the smartest of them all”, Dr Aidan Conway, Dr Austin O’ Sullivan, Dr Dave McGrath, Dr Brian Coulter and chemist Marie Sherwood, former director of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Willie was head of the Grassland Department and the “go to” person for advice on fertilisers and soil during the 1970s when Johnstown as among the foremost agricultural research bodies in the world.
It was said by his colleagues that “not a blade of of grass could be grown or an ounce of soil tilled on a field or garden in Ireland without Willie Murphy’s approval”.
He worked on Government projects around Ireland and abroad in locations including the Azores volcanic archipelago in the mid-Atlantic.
He was a close confidante of Paddy O’ Keeffe, editor of the Irish Farmers’ Journal, Joe Murray, head of agricultural programmes in RTE and Dan Brown of Dawn Meats, who was himself a former scientist at Johnstown.. In 2010, Willie received a prestigious Fertilizer Association Special Merit Award for his work.
Family members from Wexford, Dublin, Clare and the US attended the party, including his daughters - Maeve and her husband Barry Froseth, who are genetics scientists in Minnesota, Etain, a musician in Clare and Dublin and her husband Joe McCooey and Gráinne Cullen, principal officer with the Department of Education and her husband Mark from Kiltiernan; his son Liam and his wife Susan from Dundrum; his brother Jack and wife Patricia of Tilladvavins, and sister-in-law Maiguerite Hogan of Ballycogley.
Willie is husband of the late Clare and a brother of the Wexford journalist and author Hilary, Paudie and Mattie Murphy. His sister Betty lives in Knockeen.