Tributes paid to "giant of Irish theatre" Tom Murphy

Murphy was a member of the Irish Academy of Letters

Tributes paid to "giant of Irish theatre" Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is pictured in Dublin around the time of his play 'The Morning after Optimism' in 1983 | Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Updated: 15.00

Tributes are being paid to playwright Tom Murphy who has died aged 83.

Born in Tuam, Co Galway in 1935, Murphy was the youngest of 10 siblings, who all emigrated to Britain.

He stayed in Tuam and initially worked as a metalworker and a teacher before writing full-time.

A selection of his plays, many of which were produced at the Abbey Theatre and Druid Theatre Company, included A Whistle in the Dark (1961), Famine (1968), A Crucial Week in the Life of a Grocer's Assistant (1969), The Morning After Optimism (1971), The Sanctuary Lamp (1976), The Gigli Concert (1983), Bailegangaire (1985), Conversations on a Homecoming (1985), The Patriot Game (1991), Too Late for Logic (1989), and The Wake (1998).

In 2004 he wrote a novel, 'The Seduction of Morality', which examined a 38-year-old woman who returns from America to the small Irish town of her childhood.

He was a member of the Irish Academy of Letters and received numerous awards and honorary doctorates - including from Trinity College Dublin and NUI Galway.

He was also the recipient of the Ulysses Medal, the highest honour from University College Dublin (UCD).

He is survived by his wife, actress Jane Brennan.

Tom Murphy is pictured in Dublin around the time of his play 'The Morning after Optimism' in 1983 | Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was saddened to hear of his death, calling him "one of our most important playwrights".

"His relentless imagination and his restless exploration of the human condition challenged us to think about the world differently and enabled us see our souls.

"His huge impact on Irish theatre will undoubtedly be felt for many decades to come.

"Tom's ability to create roles that inspired actors to give some of their greatest performances was a testament to the quality of his language, his originality, and his ability to capture the darkness and light of our times.

"I send my condolences, and the condolences of the Government, to his family and friends."

'Immeasurable contribution'

President Michael D Higgins said: "It was with great sadness that Sabina and I have learned of the death of Tom Murphy.

"The importance of Tom Murphy’s contribution to Irish theatre is immeasurable and outstanding.

"We have had no greater use of language for the stage than in the body of work produced by Tom Murphy since his earliest work in the 1960s.

"His themes were not only those which had influenced the very essence of Irishness, immigration, famine and loss - they were universal in their reach.

Tom Murphy is pictured in Dublin around the time of his play 'The Morning after Optimism' in 1983 | Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

"From the early beginnings of his writings in Tuam, Tom Murphy produced a unique and often provocative body of work.

"He was above all the great playwright of the emigrant, more than anyone capturing, in a poignant, creative way, the transience that is at the heart of the emigrant experience.

"It was such a joy to meet Tom so many times over the years, and a particular pleasure for any of us who have been privileged to call him our friend."

President Higgins also presented Mr Murphy with the Aosdána torc in his home in 2017.

"Enduring body of work"

The chair of the Arts Council, Sheila Pratschke, said: "The council is deeply saddened at the death of Tom Murphy, a true giant of Irish theatre, who wrote some of the most popular and lasting plays of the 20th century.

"His enduring body of work was part of the contemporary Irish canon and, while a latent violence often propelled the plot and caused his audiences to wince at the blow, Murphy’s craft has always been in the power and beauty of his lucid language.

"It exposed the glory and folly of humanity, underscored by an inevitable, and merciful, ceding to a bruised affirmation of a joy for life.

"His work will continue to illuminate audiences long after his death, but his intelligence, wit and humour will be sorely missed by his colleagues and all those who had the good fortune to know and work with him."

Galway-East TD Seán Canney added: "Tom Murphy held up a mirror to the West of Ireland and put its people onto the world stage.

"The richness and beauty of his language shone through even though his plays were often hard-hitting.

"His themes were universal but he brought great recognition to the town of Tuam and made a huge contribution to Ireland's artistic heritage."