Ashling Murphy RIP

The traditional arts community has been shocked by the horrific murder of Ashling Murphy, an emerging musical talent on fiddle, concertina and whistle, as well as a dedicated teacher and sportswoman.

After completing her day’s work with her young first class pupils in Durrow National School, the 23-year-old Offaly primary school teacher had gone for a run along a popular canal walkway in Tullamore when she was attacked.

Since an individual held for questioning in connection with the murder has now been eliminated from the Garda investigation, detectives have appealed to the public with any information of events on the walkway on Wednesday afternoon to come forward. A particular line of inquiry is focused on a mountain bike with distinctive green and yellow front forks.

Amid the national outpouring of grief and expressions of solidarity with Aisling’s family, colleagues and pupils, there has been a deep and heartfelt response from the traditional arts community in Offaly and right around the country and beyond
 

Ashling was a member of Ballyboy Comhaltas Branch and had participated in Fleadhanna Cheoil at County, Provincial and All Ireland competitions with great success. She comes from a very musical family, her father is a  well known banjo player and her sister, Amy, is a talented concertina and button accordion player.

 

Both Ashling and Amy taught music to many young students in Ballyboy. Ashling was selected to take part in the Comhaltas fourteen-day concert tour of Ireland in 2017 and the ten-day Echoes of Erin  tour of Britain in 2018, She had also been a member of the Comhaltas National Folk Orchestra of Ireland since 2017.
 
In a moving statement Ballyboy Comhaltas Branch said that it was”truly devastated by the tragic passing of our amazing friend and musician Ashling Murphy. Words cannot describe how heartbroken we are to lose such a special young lady, far too early in her life.”
 
“We are privileged,” the statement continued, “to have had Ashling as a fiddle and tin whistle tutor within our branch. She had a warm and caring approach with her pupils and she inspired them to be the best they could be. Ashling was also involved in organising and training our Grúpaí Ceoil and Céilí Bands. A highly accomplished performer, she enjoyed many successes in solo, duet, and trio competitions at county, provincial, and All Ireland Fleadhanna  Ceoil from under 12 to Senior level. She was selected for the Macalla na hÉireann Comhaltas Tour of Ireland and Britain in 2017 and was a member of the Comhaltas National Folk Orchestra. Ashling’s talent, radiant smile and elegance was always evident both on and off the stage. We send our deepest sympathies to Ashling’s parents Ray and Kathleen, brother Cathal and sister Amy, extended family and friends.”
 
Similar sentiments were expressed by many other local organisations, including Tullamore Tradfest:
“The members of Tullamore TradFest and the wider community have been deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic loss of Ashling Murphy. Ashling was an excellent musician and a beautiful person who provided happiness to many through her music and her outgoing personality. Ashling had been a great supporter of Tullamore TradFest and was enthusiastic, dedicated and the consummate professional in her support of living Irish culture. At this point our thoughts, prayers and support are offered to Ashling’s family, her colleagues and students in Durrow NS, and her extended circle of friends in Ballyboy Comhaltas. May her gentle soul rest in peace. Suaimhneas síoraí dá h-anam óg.”

 

The candleit vigil for Ashling at Kilclonfert in Co. Offaly
Musicians play tribute at the vigil for Ashling in Portrush, Co. Antrim
Traditional band JIgJam were among the many local musicians who took part in a vigil for Ashling in Tullamore on Friday. Similar vigils were being held in cities and towns throughout Ireland on Friday with more planned for Saturday and Sunday, January 15-16 – including major events in Dublin, Belfast and London and a special online livestream organised by the National Deaf Women of Ireland – with an array of traditional musicians appearing in solidarity with Ashling’s family and friends.
 
Exceptionially talented – Comhaltas
From its national headquarters in Monkstown, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann issued the following statement:
“All of us in Comhaltas and the world of Irish traditional music are shocked at the untimely death of Ashling Murphy. She was an exceptionally talented young lady who made an unforgettable impression on all who had the good fortune to know her. Ashling was among the finest exponents of the concertina and fiddle and was also learning the uilleann pipes. She has featured in our Comhaltas Concert Tours and was also a valued member of the Comhaltas National Folk Orchestra of Ireland. We know that she and her family are at the heart of her local community. She was a much-loved school teacher and had so much to offer in so many ways.
 
“The brutal manner of her death – in the middle of the day – as she jogged by the banks of the peaceful canal in Tullamore has left us numbed and bewildered. The suffering of her family at the loss of such a young and beautiful person is beyond understanding. We share their grief with them and we will always remember Ashling as one who enriched our lives with her warm personality; uplifting musicmaking; compassionate, outgoing and generous friendship
 

Ashling, you will always be in our thoughts and prayers as we cherish the memories and friendship of your short but exceptional life. Ar dheis Dé go raibh do anam uasal ceolmhar. From all your musical colleagues and friends in Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann.”

The Irish Traditional Music Archive has expressed its deepest sympathies and condolences to the family and friends of “the gifted young musician and teacher Ashling Murphy whose life was so cruelly taken from her in Tullamore on Wednesday. Suaimhneas síoraí dá hanam uasal.”

Na Píobairí Uilleann extended its sympathies to Ashling’s family and friends noting that the talented musician was a member of Na Píobairí Uilleann and “a keen student of the uilleann pipes.” “Her passing leaves us shocked, saddened and heartbroken for all of those who were fortunate enough to have met her,” the NPU added.

She was going for a run
Similar messages  were forthcoming from Comhaltas Branches around Ireland as well as in Britain. Dublin Comhaltas described Ashling as “a bright young woman and a gifted musician with her whole life ahead of her,” while the Irish Australian Support Association of Queensland made a lengthy statement on gender violence accompanied by the meme: “SHE WAS GOING FOR A RUN. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam. May she rest in peace.”

FairPlé, the advocacy group challenging gender discrimination within traditional and folk music in Ireland, expressed its “deepest condolences to the family and friends of Ashling Murphy” – offering “love and strength to those feeling loss and pain today.”

Describing Ashling as “a bright soul and an exceptional talent, guilty only of going for a run,” Mise Fosta, the campaign to highlight the abuse of women in traditional music, said that “the tradition has lost another woman whose gifts will cease to flourish and brighten the lives of those around her. Our thoughts and prayers are with Ashling’s family, friends and musical circle,” – adding: “Mise Fosta stand with every woman going about their day today with an ill feeling in their stomach and Ashling Murphy on their mind.”

Expressing her condolences to Ashling’s family and friends, musician and senator, Frances Black said: “there are no words to express the shock and sadness of the horrific murder of the beautiful and talented Ashling Murphy,” while Templebar Tradfest recalled that Ashling had performed with the National Folk Orchestra of Ireland at the last live edition of the festival in January 2020. Among the many other musicians to express their condolences publicly were Sharon Shannon,  Kevin Crawford, Ger O’Donnell, Mirella Murray, Josephine Marsh, Deirbhile Ní Brolchaáin and Elle Marie O’Dwyer.

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