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An Extraordinary Man

Cape Clear Ferry Blog

An Extraordinary Man

Tom Murphy
Tom Murphy, An Old Man in a hurry

An Extraordinary Man  Fear as an ghnách

And what he did for the West Cork Islands

We recently came across this published photo taken in 1999 of Michael John Harte, Heir Island making a presentation to Divisional & Special Engineer Tom Murphy.

Taken shortly before his retirement from Cork Co Co, it was a very modest gift to an extraordinary man.

A few years previously, under Minister of State Dónal Carey funds were first centrally allocated for the Irish Islands. But in order to avail of these projects needed to be shovel ready.

Sensing an opportunity – Ag tapú an deis

Long Island Pier
Long Island Pier

Sensing an opportunity to achieve dramatic improvements for the West Cork Island Tom sprang into action. He set about preparing detailed plans for major upgrades to all Island piers and slips in West Cork. Over two short years all the relevant piers saw these works accomplished. As other County Councils took a more leisurely approach, West Cork gained the lion’s share of the funds available.

No one left behind – Gach éinne le céile

No Island was left behind. Bere, Dursey, Whiddy, Long, Heir and Sherkin Islands saw significant improvements made.

Tom Murphy & Heir Island Pier
Tom Murphy & East Pier, Heir Island

On Oileán Chléire where the main North Harbour is a Dept Marine Facility the Eastern Slip at Cuas a’Dubhghlais was extended and modernized.

A man with a vision – Fís le baint amach

You see, Tom as a ‘man with a vision’. He set himself a ridiculously ambitious target for his last working years and worked ceaselessly to achieve it. Every single one of those projects must have consumed hours of his time. While one or two would have been commendable, to achieve all required a monumental effort.  And while all this was ongoing, he still had other responsibilities to discharge.

Cuas a Dubhghlais
Cuas a Dubhghlais Cape Clear

Modest and experienced – Sé taithi an mhaistir

I met Tom in his office a few times in those years and he made a lasting impression on me. Surrounded by drawings he was brim-full of enthusiasm. Every practical achievement brought him great personal satisfaction. He had a twinkle in his eye, a modest demeanor and an aura of experience and quiet authority.

Bere Island Pier
Bere Island Pier

There is no way a younger man could have achieved all this. I could sense that his years of experience, networking skills and the respect of his colleagues were all brought to bear on the mission in hand.

Great works – Oibreacha iontacha

It also showed me of how great works  can be achieved by motivated public servants. Sadly such folk are usually the last in line, if at all for public credit and appreciation.

Three lifelong lessons – D’fhoghlaim mé roinnt ceachtanna uaidh

I learned three great lifelong lessons from Tom Murphy who is sadly, no longer with us. The first is always to have plans ready, pending funds becoming available. The second is the importance of seizing a window of opportunity when it comes. But the final and most important is of course, never to underestimate an Old Man in a hurry.

Go raibh maith agat arís Tom agus ar dheis Dé go raibh do anam.

Cléire abú. West Cork Island’s abú. Tom Murphy abú

With acknowledgements to Tracey Collins, Long Island and John Walsh, Bere Island for the respective photos.