Having worked as a GP in Durrus and Bantry for nearly 50 years, and playing an active role in both communities, huge crowds turned out to mark the retirement of the hugely popular Dr Matt Murphy
TRIBUTES have been paid to Dr Matt Murphy on his retirement after serving the people of Durrus and Bantry for the past 45 years.
Matt, a youthful 72, was the centre of attention at a function that took place recently at Philip’s Green, Durrus – an old donated building that was transformed into a fine community hall.
The organisers were lucky that the day was fine because the hall was so packed that people had no option but to spill out onto the lawn.
It seemed everyone wanted to be there to honour their friend, who had worked as a GP in the area for more than four decades until his retirement last September.
Matt qualified in UCC but because there was nothing available in West Cork at the time, he and his wife of 48-years, Ann, were lining up a trip to Canada.
But, as luck would have it, Matt, who is a native of Bantry, caught sight of an advert in a medical journal – seeking a GP for Durrus.
Matt applied for the position and got it and – using Martin Begley’s truck – he happily relocated his wife, child and dog, as well as all his worldly goods and chattel to Ardogeena in Durrus.
As locations go it has two great selling points: it overlooks the sea and is right across the road from the fabulous Blair’s Cove restaurant.
Florrie McCarthy, an estate agent, long deceased, was responsible for housing Matt and his family. Right from the start, Florrie set the tone because he, like others in the vicinity, was very good to the Murphy family.
Matt, who has that bonhomie, that air of being at home wherever he is, said: ‘Durrus was a very different place back then: it had five pubs, four shops, and a post office among other things.’
The dispensary house – which was two miles from his new home – was owned by the McCarthy’s, Gerald and Rita.
Gerald’s sister, May, was married to his uncle, Mattie Murphy, so Matt and Ann weren’t exactly strangers in a strange land.
‘Rita adopted me, fed me, and looked after me,’ said Matt, who believes he still owes them ‘a huge debt of gratitude.’
There were no mobile phones at the time. The post handled all local intelligence. Matt said: ‘The Ross family, especially Gibbs, managed a lot of my phone messages and could always locate me reasonably quickly. But there were times, such as an important football match, when they’d say I was out on a distant call and would not be back for an hour or two!’
Matt and Ann settled happily in Durrus. Matt kept his boat at Blair’s Cove and went shooting and fishing with James Evans. ‘Not that we shot much, but it was great to be making noise,’ he said.
Ann, meanwhile, diced with death in a different way when she and her friend, Ann Collins, pushed the pram – with their first born Diarmuid – along the Dunbeacon Road, which was so narrow that motorists had no option but to drive on the verges.
Initially, Matt had a dispensary in Kilcrohane as well, but after about five years his good friend, Dr Paddy Gallagher, was entitled to set up a GMS practice so it was decided to split the parish and Paddy got Kilcrohane.
‘Life was nice in Durrus. Our second child, Daithi, was born and baptised in Durrus, before we relocated to Bantry in the 70s. Our ties to Durrus have always remained strong and our daughter, Niamh, was married there.’
The practice in Bantry was initially located in the same building as Sean O’Luasa’s busy dental practice, but Matt relocated to a former Methodist Church, just off Wolfe Tone Square, a few years later.
‘The Bantry practice ran in parallel with Durrus and Ann was a mainstay of both,’ Matt said of his wife whose friendly and knowledgeable presence was always a great source of comfort and support to those attending the burgeoning practice.
Matt said it himself: ‘Ann was great. The staff were schooled by her and it is my pleasure to say they were always offered a high standard of service.’
The practice is now being run by Dr Wieneke, Dr O’Sullivan and Dr Curran – who are admirably meeting the challenges of a modern medical practice and a growing client base.
Matt has always spoken sotto voce: it is redolent not only of his calm and reassuring manner, but also of his considerable and wry sense of humour.
For 50 years, he has been a person that people turn to in times of great worry and doubt. His has always been a wiser head. And he was at all times respected – not just for his vast medical knowledge – but also because of his likeability.
Part of Matt’s appeal comes from the fact that he has been so readily accessible in other ways too.
Matt is still a member of Muintir Bhaire, the local football club, having had ‘a very brief career with them.’ He also has a lifetime souvenir of the club in the form of a metal knee.
But it is water sports that has always been Matt’s forte. He has, after all, been rowing all his life. He started when he was 12 and went on to row for Bantry when the local club was formed in 1963.
It was in 1988 that Matt took things up a gear when he got involved in the Atlantic Challenge – a maritime skills contest with crews from 20 countries who compete in replicas of the vessel left behind by the failed French invasion of 1796.
He, together with Mark Wickham, formed a crew to take part in the first event, which was held in France. A crew from Bantry continue to take part in the competition every two years and Bantry has, in fact, won it five times.
In 1996 – the bicentenary of the ill-fated 1796 French invasion – and again in 2012, Bantry hosted the Atlantic Challenge. People still remember it as being one of the most colourful, memorable and exciting events ever staged in the town. It showed what a harbour town could – with planning and support – achieve.
Looking back on a career in medicine that spanned almost 50 years, Matt said: ‘It’s a short look back, but I know that a lot of life has been fitted in to that time. I have had a lot of excellent relationships with my patients and made many, many great friends, which is why my shindig at Durrus was so wonderful.
‘The committee involved in Philip’s Green outdid themselves. They provided the food, the space and the perfect setting for what turned out to be a celebration for the whole community.’
Expressing his gratitude he said: ‘I want to thank them, and everyone who helped to make it such a special occasion, for their kindness to my family and to me.’