Ashling Murphy fondly remembers Sligo

THE late Ashling Murphy, who was brutally murdered while jogging on the banks of the Grand Canal in Tullamore on Wednesday afternoon, was a regular in Sligo to play music.

he performed at a traditional gig in Sligo and also took part in the Fleadh here and the annual Fiddler of Dooney competition.

The teacher (23) was a violin champion.

In 2017, Comhaltas were touring Ireland and the UK and Ms Murphy was part of the group of young musicians who performed at the concert at Sligo Town Hall on October 15.

Local musician Niamh McGloin, a harpist and boxer, performed with Ashling on the tour that year.

Sligo musicians Cian Kearns and Niamh O’Sullivan, now living in Dublin, prepared the band’s musical performance for all their gigs around the country this autumn and also in Britain the following spring.

Ashling also participated in the Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann competitions held in Sligo in August 2015. She even took 2nd place in the 15-18 fiddle competition on this occasion.

Bartley Gavin was chairman of the Fred Finn branch which hosted the concert in association with Sligo Co Council in 2017 and he was chairman of the Fleadh held in Sligo in 2014 and 2015.

Mr Gavin expressed his deepest sympathy to the family, friends, colleagues and students of Durrow NS teacher Ashling Murphy.

“It’s just horrible, a really shocking tragedy. For the family in particular it’s going to be very hard to recover from it, it’s so unfair.

“The whole country is in shock. Traditional musicians are so close and they all know each other and are understandably very upset.

“We offer our deepest condolences to Ashling’s family and friends.

“Ashling played the gig here in 2017 at Town Hall and a few other musicians from Sligo played with her.

“Comhaltas tour Ireland and the UK every year and it’s mostly a group of young musicians, ten or twelve in the band.

“That year, Ashling was part of the group. Seamus Kilgannon was chairman of the board at the time and hosted the concert.

“They also played Gurteen. Ashling was also present during the Fleadh competition because she comes from such a big musical family.

“I would have met the band during the gig, it’s just shocking what happened,” Mr Gavin added.

On Friday night’s Late Late Show, a group of traditional musicians from across Ireland played a number of reels dedicated to Ms Murphy.

A solitary violin was placed on a nearby chair in his memory. Among the musicians was harpist Bridín (Brid McGowan) from Enniscrone.

She spoke to host Ryan Tubridy and said Ashling was on everyone’s mind.

“It was a piece of music called Sunday’s Well, we all agreed it was appropriate to start because it’s just a sad, sad time.

“To be honest myself, I feel scared, sad, but at the same time I feel like we’re all coming together and we can all stick together and be there for each other, like we all should be, you know.

“It’s so difficult for the bereaved families,” she said.

Bridín said the musicians come together at a time like this. “It’s one of those things with Irish music anyway, I find, we communicate with each other on other levels without words or anything, we can create meaning, with music,” a- she added.

Thousands of people across the country took part in vigils, including in Sligo, to remember Ms Murphy this weekend.

Ashling was a strong supporter and regular participant in the annual Fiddler of Dooney competition held every October by the Sligo Town branch of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann. The competition is one of the oldest and most prestigious instrumental competitions in the tradition.

She competed in the junior Fiddler of Dooney competition in 2012, 2013 and 2014. In 2015 she competed as a senior and she competed again as a senior in 2018 and 2019. The competition was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid restrictions.

Speaking to The Sligo Champion, Maria McLoughlin, Sligo Town Branch Secretary at Comhaltas, said: “All of us at Comhaltas and in the Irish traditional music world are shocked by the sudden and untimely death of Ashling.

“She was an exceptionally talented musician who left an unforgettable impression on all who were fortunate enough to know her or hear her music.”

Ashling was selected for her exceptional musical prowess to take part in the Comhaltas Concert of Ireland in 2017 and the Concert Tour of Britain in 2018. She was also a member of the Comhaltas National Folk Orchestra.

“On behalf of all of our Comhaltas members in Sligo, I would like to send our deepest condolences to Ashling’s family and friends, her fellow Comhaltas in Tullamore and her school community,” Ms McLoughlin said.

At its monthly January meeting on Monday, Sligo County Council passed a vote of sympathy to the family of the late Ashling Murphy.

Cathaoirleach councilor Paul Taylor said: “On behalf of the elected members and staff of this council, I wish to convey our heartfelt condolences to the family of Ashling Murphy.

“His death was a tragedy that shocked and traumatized the entire nation, and the response of communities across the country in recent days will have brought small consolation to Ashling’s parents, siblings, former students and his wide circle of friends.

“Amongst her many talents and interests, Ashling was a noted musician and she performed at Sligo Town Hall in 2017 with touring band Comhaltas. She also starred in Ceolaras Coleman at Gurteen.

“This has been described as a watershed moment, with a strong consensus that action must be taken to make our society safer, and we will certainly play our part in this effort.”

Councilors and the general manager joined the Cathaoirleach in expressing their condolences to Ashling’s family and friends.

Cllr Declan Bree said the impact Ashling’s murder had on the people of the country was a testament to his character.

“As you have pointed out, she was an active member of Comhaltas, a renowned musician and performed at many events here in Sligo, including the annual Fiddler of Dooney competition.

“We now need concerted action to ensure that women can go about their normal lives without being in a constant state of heightened alert – without planning their route for safety, telling friends and family where where they are, or looking over their shoulder to check for potential threats.

“The best way for us to remember Ashling Murphy is to make sure her murder acts as a catalyst for change,” he said.

Corina C. Butler