First Ashling Murphy scholarships presented by family at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann

Awards in memory of 23-year-old teacher and musician killed in January and will support those pursuing educational projects in music and arts

The first-ever recipients of the Ashling Murphy Scholarship were presented with their awards on Friday evening at the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Mullingar by members of Ashling’s family.

A special commemorative concert was given by the National Folk Orchestra at St Paul’s Church in advance of the ceremony. Murphy was a fiddle player in the group before her death.

The loss of the 23-year-old schoolteacher and talented musician in January of this year has been deeply felt at this year’s fleadh cheoil. President Michael D Higgins paused while speaking at the opening ceremony in memory of the young woman.

“We remember, too, Ashling Murphy the young Irish primary school teacher and traditional Irish musician who was taken from us earlier this year so tragically,” he said.

Her parents Ray and Kathleen Murphy attended a concert alongside Chairman of the fleadh committee Joe Connaire on Monday. Her sister Amy Murphy was also there to present the awards on Friday evening.

Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann stated that they wish to “recognise and remember the talent” she had, by naming awards in her honour.

They added that the Scoláireachtaí Ashling Murphy scholarships, worth €2,000 to each of the three inaugural recipients, were a “fitting” tribute as the intention is to promote learning, in line with her profession as a primary school teacher.

The Director General of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Labhrás Ó Murchú described the affect Ashling had on the lives of those she encountered.

“The word celebration in the context of Aisling Murphy is very, very important. Every person she met, was enriched by her, genuinely enriched. There was great connection she had with people.

“All of the people she met through Comhaltas, there is a sense within them that Ashling’s name will never be far from their lips or our heart.”

The head of Comhaltas went on to describe the purpose of the Ashling Murphy Scholarship and thanked her family for their presence on the occasion.

“Its purpose is to help people who are deprived or challenged in anyway, and music has a particular role in that regard. There is seldom sorrow where music is being played and its influence cannot be underrated.

“I would like to express my appreciation to you [Ray, Kathleen and Amy Murphy], in a way you have been helping us. You have been inspirational and motivational and I’m not just using words loosely, I know I am expressing the sentiments of many people,” he concluded.

The scholarship programme is sponsored by Limerick man Ken Barrett who will join the Murphy family to present the awards.

The first scholarship was to Lisa Ward from Leitrim for a project that provides access to the arts for disadvantaged or minority groups.

Caoimhe Maddigan from Limerick received the second scholarship to help fund her project designing a music teaching curriculum for those with intellectual disabilities.

Fiddle player Jason McGuinnes of Sligo was the final recipient this year with his funding intended to help complete a detailed study into the music of west Sligo.