Mary Sheerin pays tribute to the late playwright, Tom Murphy


Tom Murphy, who died recently, is considered by some, as one of Ireland’s greatest playwrights. Born in Tuam, in 1935, he was the youngest of ten children. Gradually they all emigrated to Birmingham. His father too, was forced to emigrate, when he lost his job as a carpenter, leaving the young Tom with his mother on their own.

Mr Murphy was educated at the local Christian Brother’s school and the technical school and he became a metalwork teacher. He admitted that he would liked to have attended University, as did his best friend, Noel O’Donoghue. But due to family circumstances that was out of the question.

From a young age he always wrote and when O’Donoghue suggested they write a play Murphy was not surprised. As he said himself: “Everybody was writing plays in Ireland of the 1950’s”. But he did ask O’Donoghue what they could write about? And O’Donoghue responded: ‘Well, it’s not going to be set in a kitchen’.

The result of their combined efforts was ‘On The Outside’ a play about two young men denied access to the local dance hall due to financial and social constraints. It won the All-Ireland Drama competition in 1960.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own