A man equally at home on sports field and pulpit

Canon Gerry Murphy, who will be remembered in the town as a man who was as comfortable on the sports field as he was in the pulpit, passed away last week at his home in Norfolk at the age of 87.

Rev Murphy was curate in Shankill Parish and played rugby and cricket for Lurgan. He also won several caps for Ireland and was a former chaplain to the Queen.

John Gervase Maurice Walker Murphy was born in Bangor in 1926 and educated at Methodist College, Belfast and Dublin University.

He was ordained into the Church of Ireland as a deacon in 1952 and became a priest a year later.

For three years, until 1955, he was curate of Shankill Parish in Lurgan. He then became a chaplain to the armed forces, serving in Korea, Malaya, Aden and Cyprus.

In 1979, he became chaplain to Queen Elizabeth II and in 1986 Rev Murphy was appointed an honorary canon of Norwich Cathedral.

In October the following year, he was “honoured and surprised” to be appointed to the post in the Falklands. He would be shepherd to the 1,900 inhabitants, who lived on about 200 islands and use boats, light aircraft and helicopters for transport.

As well as being a chaplain of great note, Rev Murphy was also a fine all round sportsman, a good batsman in the middle order and a rugby full back who gained six caps for Ireland.

He was best known as a rugby player, winning his first cap in 1951 against South Africa at Lansdowne Road while playing for Dublin University.

The following spring, he was one of two novice priests playing for Ireland with Robin Roe at Twickenham when they were beaten 3-0 – the winning try had been scored by the grandson of a bishop!

He also won caps for Ireland against Scotland and Wales and in 1954 represented his country against the All Blacks. In 1958, while playing for London Irish, he was capped against Wales.

According to folklore at the rugby club, Gerry is understood to have played for Ireland one Saturday afternoon, then turned out for Lurgan Seconds the following week.

He also captained Lurgan’s cricketers in 1954 when they reached the NCU Cup Final only to lose by an innings to Woodvale. Gerry had played his part in their reaching the final top scoring with 45 against Cregagh in a narrow first round victory.

Rev Murphy is survived by his wife Joy and five daughters – Maryan, Desiree, Nicola, Geraldine and Felicity – and 17 grandchildren and three foster grandchildren.

His funeral was held at St Mary’s Church, Heacham, on Tuesday.