'Remarkable legacy' of Ashling Murphy remembered in music, song and dance
Even though her beloved fiddle sat on an empty chair, the indomitable spirit of Ashling Murphy and the remarkable legacy she has left behind pervaded every aspect of proceedings at a wonderful memorial concert in Tullamore Court Hotel last night (Sunday).
The concert – Ceiliúradh Ceolmhar ar Ashling Murphy – was a fitting finale to a the Tullamore Tradfest 2022, which saw hundreds of musicians descend on the town from all corners of Ireland and abroad for a weekend of traditional music, song and dance.
Tradfest committee member, Tommy Craven, told the capacity audience at the concert that it was “a great privilege” to have been able to organise a concert in Ashling’s honour as her family had been “great supporters” of the first Tradfest in 2019, and he added that they had also played “a huge role” in putting the programme together for the memorial concert.
In a night which was punctuated by many poignant moments, the incalculable loss of the 23-year-old teacher was brought into sharp focus on a number of occasions, not least when a video was played of Ashling and her beloved father, Ray, sitting side by side and playing tunes at the inaugural Tradfest in 2019.
Displaying remarkable strength and fortitude in the midst of their unspeakable grief, members of the Murphy family were front and centre at last night’s concert and the audience heard that Ashling herself would also have been “front and centre” at the concert had it not been for her tragic death on January 12 when she was out for a jog on the Grand Canal after work.
Her only sister, Amy, herself an accomplished musician, joined many of the musical groups on stage and was the narrator for a musical performance by many past-pupils from the Sacred Heart school who had sang in the Choir and played in the orchestra alongside Ashling under the stewardship of legendary music teacher, Regina McCarthy.
Her father Ray also joined musicians on stage and participated in a rousing medley of tunes with his lifelong friends and fellow musicians in much-loved local folk group, ‘Best Foot Forward’ Ger Kidney, Pat Fulton and Mick Lynam, which included a stirring rendition of Ashling’s favourite song, the Furey’s ‘Sweet Sixteen’ and led to a prolonged and emotional standing ovation.
Ashling’s mother, Kathleen, was also in attendance as was her only brother, Cathal and her partner, Ryan Casey, both of whom participated in the opening procession of the night which saw the Irish, Offaly and Tradfest flags being brought to the stage, along with a picture of Ashling and her beloved fiddle which was placed on an empty chair.
James Hogan, who acted as MC for the occasion and is also the Principal of Durrow National School, where Ashling Murphy was the 1st class teacher, told the audience that this was “her seat for the night – if she was here she would say ‘drive it on lads and keep it going’ and that’s what we intend to do, and I have no doubt she is right here with us tonight.”
Some 185 musicians, singers and dancers took part in the four and a half hour concert, which will live long in the memory of all those who attended.
James Hogan expressed the hope that it would “bring some solace” to the grieving Murphy family, while Ashling’s uncle, Des, who became emotional as he spoke on behalf of the Murphy, Leonard and Casey families, said he had been told earlier in the week by Amy Murphy that “music speaks where words fail” and he added that the music at the memorial concert “spoke volumes” about the type of life Ashling had led and the legacy she leaves behind.
The Murphy family have set up a Memorial Trust in memory of their beloved daughter, and all proceeds will be donated to the causes which were close to her heart.
A GoFundMe page set up by Tullamore Tradfest has already attracted close to €10,000 in donations.
Donations can be made at: TTF 2022 for The Ashling Murphy Memorial Trust.