Lives Lost to Covid-19: Florrie Murphy was ‘ballsy before we realised women could be ballsy’

This Bray woman took up running in her late 40s. You couldn’t catch her, let alone stop her

Florence (Florrie) Murphy

1938 - 2021

Ballsy. Florrie Murphy was ballsy. She was energetic and brave and loved sports before women were even allowed on pitches. She took up running in her late 40s when the ladies mini-marathons started in Dublin. She was soon running full marathons. You couldn't catch her, let alone stop her.

Florrie married Joe in a double ceremony with her sister May and her intended (Slip) on June 4th, 1958. Joe 44, as he was known in honour of the couple's council house at 44 Beech Road, Bray, was a Liverpool supporter; Florrie's brother Noel McFarlane was a Busby Babe, moving over to Manchester in the 1950s, so she supported Manchester United. Oh the fizz that fixture brought to number 44.

Florrie had four children – Leo, Betty, John and Donal – and every one of them got a sporting gene. Soccer, Gaelic, rugby, darts, golf, athletics; she loved them all and spent many weekend afternoons at Greystones RFC watching matches and "enjoying the post-match activities", as her daughter puts it. Her middle son, John "Spud" Murphy, captained Leinster and was capped for Ireland in 1992. She loved that, but made sure the hooker she had produced kept his feet on the ground.

Florrie ran a keep-fit class in Bray Wheelers cycling club. The women members would do their keep fit and then go to the local for a glass of Guinness and a bag of crisps. She had a class for young girls, too. She was ballsy before anyone even realised women could be ballsy.


She organised trips to the Gaiety panto at Christmas for children from Little Bray, taking them on a double-decker bus to enjoy Maureen Potter. Most of all, she loved her family. "I always felt safe at home, no matter what happened outside. When I put the key in the door at Beech Road I knew everything would be okay," says Betty.

Florrie Murphy loved her grandchildren and they all loved her. She was the coolest granny. She also loved her friends, saving up every week for a trip away with them. The house was popular with everyone her children brought home. Florrie often had extra mouths to feed, but took it in her stride. Money could be tight, but friendships were tighter.

She didn’t work outside the home when her children were small, but later worked in a number of places. Florrie was a people person before management consultants wrote books about it.

Fun and raucous, she was the life and soul of a party. “Up here for thinking, down there for dancing,” said the woman who left St Patrick’s School, Bray, when she was 12. As sharp as a tack, as warm as a briquette fire and as cheeky as a whole troop of monkeys, Florrie’s family and all her friends will miss her very much.

She had been moving away for a while, says her daughter. “They say that dementia is the long goodbye and over the past eight years we have been slowly losing bits of Mam.” Her family will nevertheless miss her terribly. They said goodbye to Florrie last week at St Peter’s in Little Bray. She leaves big running shoes to fill.

Anthea McTeirnan

Anthea McTeirnan

Anthea McTeirnan is an Irish Times journalist