Carolyn caps it all off with a book on her friend Maureen

June 11th, 2018 5:50 PM

By Jackie Keogh

Carolyn relaxing at her home. (Main photo: John Delea)

Share this article

What do you do when you have terminal cancer? Carolyn Murphy, who was recently told that she has nine months to live, does what she always does: she keeps active.

WHAT do you do when you have terminal cancer? Carolyn Murphy, who was recently told that she has nine months to live, does what she always does: she keeps active.

One of her most recent projects – aside from completing and sending out a book about her time with movie legend Maureen O’Hara – is to make Cotton Caps for Cancer.

Someone admired Carolyn’s, so she got the idea to knit them for others, and to leave them at places like ARC House in Bantry, and the cancer treatment facilities at CUH and the Bon Secours Hospital in Cork.

Carolyn has enlisted the help of Mary Sharkey of Bantry Yarns and one suspects she has found a kindred spirt.Certainly she has found someone with the same sense of humour because Mary said the gathering planned for Bantry Yarns in New Street on Saturday, June 9th next will be ‘like a sweat shop for the day.’

It will be a fun event. People have already begun to show their support for Carolyn’s plan to provide people with a versatile alternative to itchy wigs.

Some people – those who want to help, but can’t knit – have donated money to cover the cost of the cotton that will be used on the day, and which will result in a small stockpile of cotton caps for distribution.

Bantry Yarns is a busy shop. It is popular with locals and visitors who are drawn by the fact that Mary stocks good quality and locally hand-dyed Irish and European yarns.

Each 50g ball of soft cotton will make a single cap and Mary will even supply the patterns – all you have to do is turn up on the day. 

The caps will be given out freely to cancer patients, but people can also buy the cotton caps directly from Mary, or online from her website at 

Buying a cap as a gift for a friend who is receiving treatment will support the ongoing efforts of Cotton Caps for Cancer.

‘There will be lots of different styles and sizes and we will be making them for men, women and children too,’ said Carolyn who, together with her husband Bill, has three boys William, Kevin and Brendan, as well as three adopted daughters Meghan, Kale and Garrith.

In 2007, Carolyn had a double mastectomy and for the last 11 years has been receiving treatment – all of which was borne with her innate and remarkable dignity.

‘I am terminal, but instead of being sick, and on the couch, I am active,’ said Carolyn, whose book about the time she spent with Maureen O’Hara is now with agents and prospective publishers.

‘I told them I have time constraints,’ Carolyn said, with her usual direct but no-fuss approach to things. 

During a visit to West Cork in 1975 she and her friend, Margaret Murray, almost had to machete their way up a driveway to a derelict house near Ballylickey, but Carolyn saw the potential.

With some deft negotiations, she knocked a huge chunk off the asking price and did the deal. Then, she asked to be patched through by operator to her husband Bill, who was working in Germany, to confess her actions. 

Together, over the years, they have made the house, and the gardens, a place of peace and real beauty.

Since the latest diagnosis, Carolyn has been busy getting things in order. ‘I am at peace with it,’ she said, ‘and I appreciate my doctor’s honesty.’

Carolyn said she’d like to be around for Bill’s 80th next April, but who knows. 

Carolyn said Bill has no short-term memory but is disciplined. ‘We have him on a regime that is the same time, the same thing every day. He is very functional and, in that respect, we are very lucky.’

Daily, Bill tells Carolyn that he is fighting really hard to not leave her alone. In reply, she tells him: ‘And I am fighting really hard so I will not leave you alone.’ The byplay makes them laugh. They know: ‘It’s a Mexican stand-off.’

Share this article