Ashling Murphy’s death casts shadow over Irish music industry


As we go through this journey on earth, we learn and accept that death is part of life, but when it comes suddenly and unexpectedly, it can require more understanding and faith, no matter what. either the age of our dear family member or friend.

When such sadness strikes in various forms, we find that there is strength in unity and our Irish community is especially helpful in the grieving process. Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, founded in 1951, is based on traditional Irish music and dance and our Aboriginal heritage, and there is great healing power in music as well as our Catholic faith.

This common thread is something that is close to my heart these days with the tragic passing of young Aisling Murphy in Tullamore, County Offaly, and one of our most beloved elderly, Kathleen Gallagher.

The Irish community around the world was shocked and stunned last Wednesday by Aisling’s senseless and brutal fatal attack on the path known as Fiona’s Way along the Grand Canal in Tullamore, robbing a beautiful and talented young woman of her life at the 23 years old. details of this heinous crime have yet to be detailed until she is laid to rest Jan. 18 at Mountbolos Cemetery after her mass at St. Brigid’s Church attended by President Michael D. Higgins and Taoiseach Micheal Martin .

News of her passing first came to me from Comhaltas Uachtarain Eamonn O hArgain via a Facebook post, as Aisling was well known as a CCE musician from the age of five under the tutelage of her violin teacher Attracta Brady in Tullamore in the Ballyboy branch.

She acquitted herself well from CCE fleadhanna to the last at Drogheda before the pandemic and was selected for Irish and English touring bands and her National Folk Orchestra. The horrific news quickly spread through the network of many fellow musicians near and far who would have known her firsthand, especially her young peer group.

The loss of a young woman who simply went for a run after teaching her first class at Durrow High School in her first year after graduating as a teacher from Mary Immaculate College in Limerick instantly stopped Ireland in its tracks. momentum and thanks to social media, throughout the diaspora too.

Candlelight vigils erupted from that tragic day as the world mourned the loss of the girl who had so wrapped up her too short 23 years with her music, sport and talent as a teacher and her zest for life in sympathy and in solidarity with his parents, Kathleen and Ray, his sister Amy, his brother Cathal and his partner Ryan.

The aptly named Ashling, which means dream in Irish, was so full of promise and potential based on what she had already achieved in her young life as a musician and teacher at Ballyboy Comhaltas for young people in solo and in Group. And her first-year students were the pride of her teaching career that had just begun. The grief and lessons learned too young were especially hard to imagine.

Ashling Murphy’s legacy will hopefully not be simply the memory of an inhumane act by a deranged individual, but a need to respect human dignity for all of us, and especially for women who feel too vulnerable on a daily basis because of the violence perpetrated by men.

Will it be a watershed moment for all of us, or tears wasted in vain because we didn’t understand the meaning of a life that was snuffed out on a Tullamore trail when we were just going for a run?

We can also learn many lessons from a life well lived by Kathleen Gallagher, who passed away in her 85th year on January 2 after nine days in hospital trying to recover from a fall in her own kitchen.

A friend for over 30 years in our mutual love and support for traditional Irish music and dance, she has long served as President of my own CCE branch, the Coleman-O’Grady Club based at Kerry Hall in Yonkers serving her Bronx and Membership in Westchester.

His obituary shared so many facets of a life of perseverance, perseverance,

and accomplishments with ups and downs that never held her back, and endless friendships everywhere she went until her last days.

She met the love of her life, Stephen Gallagher, from Gort, Co. Galway at one of the Fordham area Irish dances, and they were married in 1957 until Stevie died at his home in Gort after dancing a Galway set in 1994. They had six children as she put aside her interest in the medical profession until the youngest was in high school.

Then she embarked on a steady progression, earning bachelor’s and registered nurse (magna cum laude) and master’s degrees in nursing which she applied to a career teaching in the New York public school system. York, not only striving to improve herself, but to make a difference for the young people she would come in contact with, including the aspiring young nurses at De Witt Clinton High School in the Bronx for more than 20 years.

His own interest in Irish music and dancing was passed on to his children, and his son Stephen was the first American to win the Senior World Irish Jigging Championship as a pupil of Donny Golden. Kathleen had learned from Jerry Mulvihill years earlier, who had also taught at Golden.

She and the late Stevie were key cogs in the parents and students of Irish music and dance for years, also making lifelong friends there.

Her spirit of volunteerism over the 28 years she survived Stevie’s passing has led her to make massive contributions to our Irish community, not only to Comhaltas and parents and students, but also as a very active member of the Kerry association, the HOPe charity and the Doonbeg club. She for years presided over the annual communion breakfast at Calvary Hospital, a place where she worked as a nurse.

Along the way, Kathleen made many friends of all ages and treated them with a most admirable respect and concern and indicative of her own character and her belief that “friends treat you as the friend you you are”.

The lives of Aisling Murphy and Kathleen Gallagher mattered in the quality they represented, even though their durations were different, and offered the best examples of the importance of community. Kindness and respect were hallmarks of their respective lives that should inspire each day as the best way to remember them.


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