John Murphy, West Cork Hotel, Skibbereen: A tribute

The death took place on 30 July 2021 of John Murphy, Ilen Street and formerly of the West Cork Hotel, Skibbereen.

John Murphy (1928-2021).

John died full of years after a long and active life. His connection with Skibbereen goes back several generations and his singular knowledge of the area and its people was without equal. Though a very public figure as owner and manager of the West Cork Hotel for much of his life, and while he enjoyed the company of people, John was in many respects a very private person. However, the writer of this modest tribute has on many occasions been grateful to John for his patience and unfailing generosity with his time in answering many queries about aspects of the history of Skibbereen and its people.

John and Betty Murphy will of course be forever associated with the West Cork Hotel which they ran from 1959 until they retired from the business in the mid-1990s. John was predeceased by his wife Betty (née O’Driscoll) who died on 10 June 2018.

Great Grandfather

John’s great-grandfather, Patrick Murphy, and his great-grandmother, an O’Donovan from Drominidy, both emigrated to America during the Famine. They married in New York in 1853 before returning some years later to Ireland and to Skibbereen. Patrick brought a shop in North Street and later brought a premises in Main Street where he ran a pub and a meal and flour business.

John Murphy and Annie Fitzgerald who build the West Cork Hotel which opened in 1902. John and Annie were grandparents of John Murphy.

Patrick Murphy died in July 1910 and Mrs Murphy died three years later in 1913. Patrick and Mrs Murphy were survived by one son, John, and this was the man who built the West Cork Hotel which opened in 1902.

John Murphy began his working life as a law clerk and later worked as a carpenter. He was a very progressive man and built a number of houses in Cork Road and at Market Street. John married Annie Fitzgerald of the Abbey, Skibbereen, on 8 September 1887.

An advert in the ‘Skibbereen Eagle’ of 27 September 1902 announcing the opening of the new West Cork Hotel.

By the turn of the twentieth century Skibbereen had become a very progressive market and business town, and Ilen Street was an ideal site for a new hotel, it being situated close to the railway station which then played such an important role in the commercial and social life of the town.

This splendid photograph from the Lawrence Collection shows the original West Cork Hotel building with the railway running behind it.

The original hotel had eleven bedrooms and early on the proprietors converted a downstairs billiard room into three bedrooms to bring the total up to fourteen. It was Annie Murphy who ran the hotel for many years. John and Annie Murphy had six children, three boys and three girls, Dan, John, Pat, May, Eileen and Katie.

Their eldest son Dan and his wife Lizzie took over the running of the hotel when his mother Annie’s health forced her to reduce her involvement in the business. Annie died on 27 September 1937.

John and Betty Murphy.

Dan married Lizzie Ross of Glandart, Bantry, on 28 April 1927. It was Lizzie who mostly managed the hotel and she took over the business completely when Dan died tragically young on 1 August 1939. Dan pre-deceased his father by some sixteen months; John died on 13 November 1940.

Dan and Lizzie had two sons, John and Pat. John married Betty O’Driscoll from Carrigillihy, Union Hall, on 17 September 1959 and the couple took over the running of the West Cork Hotel. From the beginning, it was a real team effort. For thirty-five years John and Betty dedicated themselves to making the West Cork Hotel one of the best-known establishments in the south of Ireland.

John Murphy (1928-2021).

The West Cork Hotel became an institution under John and Betty’s guidance. It was a tourist attraction, appealing to people from all over to come and enjoy the excellent hospitality and service. It was one of the most popular wedding venues in West Cork and over three decades John and Betty worked extraordinarily hard to make every visitor welcome. They treated everyone with the same respect and they, in turn, were greatly admired and respected for their enormous commitment to their guests.

In 1978, in conjunction with the Skibbereen Welcome Home Week, the O’Donovan Rossa GAA Club ran a ‘Lord Mayor of Skibbereen’ contest which proved to be a very successful fundraising event. The seven candidates Timmie Salter, Charlie Davis, Ronnie Carthy, John Young, Michael Harte, Oliver Fahy and Robert Swanton, had a ‘press conference’ to launch their respective campaigns in the West Cork Hotel and pictured here is John Murphy welcoming candidate Timmie Salter to the event.

John and Betty added seven bedrooms in 1960. Then when the railway closed in 1961, they bought more land behind the existing hotel and in 1965 they added a substantial extension. They added the function room and an extra seven bedrooms. In 1972 they carried out a further expansion to bring it up to a forty-one bedroom hotel. John and Betty retired in the mid-1990s and the management of the hotel was taken over by their son John, the fourth generation of the family to run the business.

Recognised in the Bridgestone Guide as one of the best one hundred places to stay in Ireland, John McKenna wrote that: ‘People find the West Cork to be a home away from home, a place of relaxation where things are done properly according to ageless standards of service. It demands that rare epithet, venerable, to describe its charms’.

John decided to pursue other business interests and in 2005 the West Cork Hotel was purchased by the Looney family who have continued the fine tradition of the hotel.

John Murphy is survived by his children John and Liz, sisters in law Elmar Nolan and Noreen Lucey, relatives, and a large circle of friends.

P. O’R.

Three Burials in Aughadown Graveyard, February 1921

In February 1921 three burials took place in the old graveyard in Aughadown, four miles west of Skibbereen town. Those interred were Patrick O’Driscoll of Mohonagh, William Connell and Mathew Sweetnam, both of Lissanoohig.

The deaths of these three neighbours were not normal. Each man had died a violent death, the casualties of the ongoing War of Independence, which was then in its most intense phase.

In the 2021 Skibbereen Historical Journal William Casey tells story of these three men, neighbours but from different backgrounds.

Skibbereen Historical Journal Vol 17, 2021, is now available for purchase in shops in Skibbereen and some other outlets in West Cork.

The Journal has fourteen articles covering a diverse range of topics and it maintains the very high standard of the previous sixteen. The Journal is selling for €12.

It can also be purchased online by clicking on this link

Skibbereen Historical Journal Vol 17, 2021

Skibbereen Historical Journal Vol 17, 2021, is now available for purchase in shops in Skibbereen and some other outlets in West Cork.

The Journal has fourteen articles covering a diverse range of topics and it maintains the very high standard of the previous sixteen. The Journal is selling for €12.

It can also be purchased online by clicking on this link

Skibbereen Historical Journal 2021

Skibbereen Historical Journal Vol 17, 2021, is now available for purchase in shops in Skibbereen and some other outlets in West Cork.

The Journal has fourteen articles covering a diverse range of topics and it maintains the very high standard of the previous sixteen. For that, we must thank our contributors who have written some superb articles.

We are delighted to welcome some new writers this year. Other authors are very well known to you.

Unfortunately, we will not be having a public launch of any kind because of current restrictions. The Journal is selling for €12.

It can also be purchased online by clicking on this link

Monsignor Leonard O’Brien, PE

The death took place on 26 August 2020 of Right Reverend Monsignor Leonard O’Brien, PE.

Monsignor O’Brien died peacefully at Marymount University Hospice, Cork, where he had been in care for a number of weeks.

Monsignor Leonard 1 DSC_0146
The late Right Reverend Monsignor Leonard O’Brien, PE.

Leonard O’Brien was born at Curragh, Skibbereen, in March 1938. He attended primary school at the Boys’ School at Market Street and received his secondary education at St Fachtna’s De La Salle, Skibbereen.

Leonard studied for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, where he was ordained Sub Deacon on 15 June 1962. He was raised to the priesthood by Most Rev. Dr Lucey, Bishop of Cork and Ross, at Our Lady Crowned Church, Mayfield, Cork, on 8 June 1963.

Following his ordination, Fr Leonard served for one year on temporary mission in the diocese of Savannah, Georgia. He later served for eight years on the South American mission in Peru.

DSC_0146 New Altar
On Saturday 21 May 2005 the new altar was re-dedicated and the redeveloped sanctuary area was blessed following extensive renovations and modifications at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Skibbereen. Monsignor Leonard O’Brien delivered a beautiful homily that evening in which he included a history of the building. Pictured on the altar for the concelebrated Mass were, from left, Rev. Fr Martin O’Driscoll, Rev. Fr Cristoir McDonald, Very Rev. Monsignor Leonard O’Brien, Most Rev. Dr John Buckley, Bishop of Cork and Ross, Very Rev. Fr Jim O’Donovan, and Rev. Fr Kevin O’Regan.

As a priest for the diocese of Cork and Ross, Fr Leonard served as curate in Carrigfada and Clogagh, as chaplain in Clonakilty and Blackrock. He served as Administrator of the Cathedral Parish and as parish priest in Ballincollig, before being appointed parish priest of Clonakilty in June 2003 where he served until his retirement in 2012. Fr Leonard was appointed Vicar General of the Diocese and Papal Prelate with title of Monsignor on the 5 September 2003.

Monsignor O’Brien was a man of exceptional intellect, with a cultured and accomplished mind. In 2009 he wrote a history of the thirty-nine years of the Cork and Ross mission to South America. Children of the Sun: The Cork Mission to South America was published by Veritas. It is a beautiful account of the mission, founded in Cork in the 1960s by Bishop Lucey, and tells the story of the Irish missionaries who dedicated themselves to addressing the needs of the indigenous people in parts of Peru, the Andes, and later Ecuador.

Len O'Brien 2 August 23 2002
Pictured at the launch of And Time Stood Still Vol 1, published by St Fachtna’s De La Salle PPU, on 23 August 2002, were Monsignor Leonard O’Brien, Bernie Daly, cathaoirleach of Skibbereen Town Council, and Liam O’Regan, editor, Southern Star.

Monsignor O’Brien always kept close contacts with his family and many friends in Skibbereen and he was particularly interested in the welfare of his alma mater, St Fachtna’s De La Salle. In 2005 he served as President of St Fachtna’s De La Salle Past Pupils’ Union.

Monsignor O’Brien is survived by his sister Anna (O’Donovan) and brother Gerald, both of Skibbereen, and nieces and nephews Margaret, Michael, Josephine, Brian, Romie and Claire.

Skibbereen & District Historical Society would like to offer its sincerest sympathy to founder member and Society President, Mr. Gerald O’Brien, on the death of his brother, Right Reverend Monsignor Leonard O’Brien, PE.

PPU 2005 DSC_8929
In 2005 Monsignor Leonard O’Brien served as President of the St Fachtna’s De La Salle, Skibbereen, Past Pupils’ Union. At the annual School Awards Night in April that year, Monsignor O’Brien presented Anthony Davis and Niall Cahalane with ‘Distinguished Past Pupils’ awards.