Paddy Murray had a remarkable life. A journalist for nearly 50 years, he worked at various times for many newspapers – including the Evening Herald, Irish Daily Star and Sunday World. He was also editor of the Sunday Tribune from 2003 until 2005.
And, for the past two years, Paddy – who died on Thursday morning, aged 68, at St James's Hospital, Dublin – wrote a regular column in The Irish Times.
In 1998, he was diagnosed with Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, a rare type of cancer. He also had Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and it was this inflammatory lung disease that formed the basis of many columns in The Irish Times – particularly in relation to Covid-19 and the experience, fears and hopes of those living with health difficulties. He was an important, vocal voice for many immunocompromised people, and their families, during the pandemic.
Undoubtedly, over the past couple of decades, he endured some deep lows with illness, but his writing was never about wallowing in self-pity. In fact, he said that it was the most simple things that bothered him the most – such as not being able to kick a football in the park with his daughter Charlotte.
Paddy was, at his core, a family man.
My regular conversations with Paddy would almost always steer quickly away from some minor issue with his column and towards the loves of his life – family, music, sport.
We didn’t talk about music much – he had a refined taste, and quickly realised I didn’t. And so we generally chatted about family and hurling. He always had a story about his wife Connie (former sports editor of the Irish Daily Star) and daughter Charlotte.
His final piece for this newspaper, due to be published next week, now, for obvious reasons, won’t be. It was about being readmitted to hospital. In the final paragraph he wrote: “I want to be near my wife and daughter. That’s number one. Thank God modern technology allows us to see one another every day.”
And, because I was from Tipperary, he loved to talk about Templederry, where his father was born. “I’m half-Tipp” he told me many times, and he rejoiced in the Templederry Kenyons powering their way back to top-flight hurling in Tipperary last November.
Last year he published a memoir, And finally: A journalist's life in 250 stories. "I got it down to just 250," he told me proudly. I laughed, though considering the man – his interviews included Maradona, Richard Harris, Elton John and John Wayne – it probably was an achievement.
In his book, he spoke of the cruelness of death, and three aspects in particular.
One, though Paddy was a Christian he didn’t see it as switching instantly from one life to another. Two, that memory dies too. “That I cannot go to my grave with a picture of my daughter etched on my brain for eternity is more heartbreaking than anything else.” The third thing was about how, in death, he believed you don’t get to miss people. “You don’t even get to have the pain of missing them. And that’s the worst thing of all.”
A journalist to the tips of his fingers, his last message to me a few days ago was:
“What’s the deadline for that March 1 piece? I’ve been readmitted!! Paddy.”
He had many achievements during his long career, claiming several awards for his writing. But his biggest achievement? “Charlotte. If I was to pick one moment to describe as the best in my life, it would be around 4.25am on April 6th, 2006. Connie had called me to tell me they were taking her to theatre in the Rotunda Hospital. Half asleep, I asked her what I should do. ‘Get here,’ she said.”