Lives Remembered

Keady man was last of the teenage emigrant labourers

Eugene Murphy left Keady to work in Britain at the age of 15

He was among the last of the teenage emigrant labourers.

Born in 1926, the third son of Owen and Clare Murphy of Keady, Co Armagh, Eugene Murphy went to work in England at the age of 15.

His native town had once been a thriving mill area, but that was all ending and hungry thirties had arrived.

Gene and his father were working in Coventry at the height of the Blitz, clearing rubble during the day and seeking shelter outside the town during the night raids.

Along with many other emigrants from Keady and Darkley, he was constantly on the move seeking employment, and in 1945 got work at the hydro dam in Lough Sloy in Scotland.

It was at this time he met and married Elizabeth Boag and settled in the town of Bonhill.

In fact the famous phrase “Me Keady too” came from this place when a ganger (foreman) was interviewing workers.

Apparently the young men from Keady and Darkley had a good reputation and one after another they were given the nod.

Seeing this, a Polish man looking for a job said in his best English: “Me Keady too.” The catchphrase is still in use all these years later.

A variety of jobs with local builders brought Gene, his wife Elizabeth and daughter Clare to Holy Lough.

He was there introduced to the game of golf and became a prominent member of the Vale of Leaven club.

Because he was so gifted with his hands he was once asked to repair a monument in the Trossachs to the Scottish outlaw Rob Roy McGregor.

He was also a story teller in the old Irish tradition, a “spinner of yarns” enabling him to enlighten any company.

Throughout his years in England and Scotland Gene took every opportunity to return home to Keady.

One of these occasions was in September 1953 and the Armagh v Kerry All-Ireland final in Croke Park where his brother Gerry was the Armagh goalkeeper for the second half.

In his early days in Keady, Gene proved himself a good footballer in the parish league and could have gone on to be a prominent player such was his physique, strength and fearlessness.

A great companion and a “good man to have on your side”, he never forgot the advice of his parents to take up fully the challenges of life, to use your gifts to the best of your ability, and be courageous and helpful at all times. This he did with abundance throughout his long years.

Gene Murphy's funeral Mass was celebrated at St Mark's Catholic Church, Alexandria, Dumbartonshire.

He was predeceased by his wife Elizabeth and is survived by his daughter Clare and grandchildren.

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Lives Remembered