Peter John Murray: Gentleman farmer made huge contribution to his community
IT'S not often that one word can define the character and principles of an individual but for Peter John Murray the word ‘gentleman' comes very close.
It is certainly the word that his family, friends and neighbours identified as his abiding quality and one which has left a legacy for the community in south Armagh that meant so much to him.
A quiet, modest and unassuming man, Peter John - also known as Peter or simply PJ - would have reached his 80th birthday tomorrow.
He lived all his life in the townland of Skerriff, Titchburn on the outskirts of Cullyhanna.
His home, known locally as ‘Raymur Farm', grew over the years as a dairy and beef farm and he took tremendous pride in his work.
It is said that actions speak louder than words and it is certainly for PJ's many actions for his neighbours and friends that he was most fondly known.
Born in 1938, the eldest of a family of five, he left school at 14 without a second-level education but made a huge contribution to his community.
Peter John was appointed as one of the first governors of St Patrick's Primary School and dedicated himself to this position until his passing.
As a member of the finance committee for Lower Creggan parish he was professional and respected in all decisions, while his tenure with Cullyhanna Community Enterprises witnessed many developments including the establishment of the Cardinal Ó Fiaich Centre.
PJ was also a respected board member of Fane Valley Co-operative.
But it is perhaps for his long involvement with Newtownhamilton Credit Union that he was most widely known.
A founding member of the branch in 1967, he continued to champion its values over the last 50 years.
Peter John served as its president several times and continued as a director until his death.
In recent years he even negotiated the purchase of its new building on The Square while in hospital recovering from hip replacement surgery.
A dedicated “committee man”, he would not have missed more than a handful of meetings of any of the groups he was involved with during his lifetime.
Peter John met Maurita McCoy from Mullaghbawn at a carnival dance and their marriage in 1970 was the foundation for a very happy family life, which included an active interest in local history, amateur dramatics and the GAA.
The couple travelled extensively as far afield as New Zealand and Canada, with a love of cruises providing an avenue for social dancing.
They shared their great faith and moral standing with their children, three boys and two girls.
Peter John was diagnosed with an advanced stage of papillary thyroid cancer in March this year.
Despite losing the power of speech after undergoing a laryngectomy, he made an impression on all the medical and nursing staff.
As he continued to recover in hospital, he then faced a shocking terminal diagnosis at the beginning of May for a rare anaplastic thyroid cancer.
His bravery and strong faith allowed him to bear his illness with dignity and decisiveness before he passed away peacefully on May 18.
The large attendance at his wake and funeral was a fitting tribute and he will be remembered as the “gentle, considerate and loyal man that he was".
Peter John is survived by Maurita, their children Kevin, Conor, Ronan, Fionnuala and Maeve, son and daughters-in-law Barry, Karen and Noreen and grandchildren Aine, Oran, Niall, Aobihe and Laoise. A sixth grandchild, Aisling, was born on July 13.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.