Northern Ireland news

Family of Belfast singing sensation Ruby Murray 'totally blown away' by blue plaque honour

Tim and Julie Burgess yesterday unveiled the Ulster History Circle blue plaque to their mother Ruby Murray. Picture by Hugh Russell

THE family of Belfast singing sensation Ruby Murray have described how they have been "totally blown away" by the honour bestowed on their late mother in her home city.

A blue plaque commemorating the Softly, Softly singer was yesterday unveiled near to her childhood home on the Donegall Road.

Crowds of people gathered to remember the star, who in her 1950s heyday was one of the biggest recording artists in the UK and Ireland, enchanting millions with her husky voice.

In 1955 she had five songs in the UK top 20 at one time - a feat only matched by Madonna four decades later.

She is perhaps better known by younger generations through the Cockney rhyming slang, 'going for a Ruby' (Ruby Murray: curry).

DUP leader Arlene Foster, south Belfast MP Emma Little-Pengelly and MLA Christopher Stalford were among those at the event yesterday as well as SDLP MLA Claire Hanna and councillor Donal Lyons.

Murray's two children Tim and Julie Burgess unveiled the Ulster History Circle plaque to their mother just yards from where she grew up on Moltke Street.

Mr Burgess said the plaque was "a reminder of how lovely she was", adding that "over the years, she has slipped through the cracks, not forgotten but perhaps under-appreciated for the achievements she had, so it's nice to see that coming back".

Ms Burgess also said she was "totally blown away" by the honour.

From humble beginnings, she was first spotted at the age of 11 when she won a talent competition in a local newspaper and made her professional debut on Irish television.

She sang professionally in various venues outside Belfast, with her mother as her chaperone, with her big break coming when producer Richard Afton spotted her in a stage show in London and signed her for the television show, Quite Contrary.

This led to a recording contract with Columbia and an extraordinary career. She died in 1996, aged 61.

Her life was recently chronicled by local writer Michael Cameron in a play called Ruby, currently being performed at Belfast's Lyric Theatre.

"While writing the play I made contact with Ruby's first husband Bernie Burgess and their children Tim and Julie, they mentioned that Ruby had not really been celebrated in Belfast, and wouldn't it be great if there was a plaque," said Mr Cameron.

"So I dropped off an email to Ulster History Circle, and a few years later we have got the play and the plaque happening in the same week."

Chris Spurr of the Ulster History Circle said: "Ruby Murray was a singing star who enchanted millions with her talent, and her record-breaking achievement of having five hit singles simultaneously in the top 20 has never been equalled by a female singer".

Sarah Boden from the Greater Village Regeneration Trust, where the plaque is situated, said it was "only right that Ruby should have this tribute in the area in which she was born".

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