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16 October 2014
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A Man Called Phil

Roseanna Donohoe has fond memories of her father, Philip Murphy, who could turn his hand to almost any craft in his native Fermanagh.


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The term 'handy with your hands' fitted my father exactly. He could and often did, dismantle a car, boat or motorbike engine and put it back together in working order. He was a neat and competent builder and Carpenter who had worked in London in the fifties and here at home as a tradesman for Fermanagh County Council.

He was for several years also employed as a tradesman on Crom Estate. But the skills I remember best was that of boat builder. Fermanagh of the lakes has its own history of boat building. My Father, Philip Murphy, now dead, contributed in his way to that tradition.

I can remember him making his own models for the boats from plywood and inventing a system for steaming the narrow wooden 'ribs' so that they would bend into place, which strengthened the structure of the boats.

There was a sawmill in Belturbet, County Cavan ( eight miles upriver by boat or lough Cot ) which he used to bring the 'wooden boards' home. The whole structure was secured with copper nails/rooves which would not rust, vital for all 'clinker built boats' on Lough Erne.

Ever friendly and helpful, he guided several other local boat builders as they developed this skill, at a time when these type of boats were popular. A gifted and charismatic man, I admired his capabilities, evident in anything that he chose to do.

His Achilles heel, like many other good men of that era was an unhealthy love affair with a drink. My Father died relatively young, but left a large family of whom I am the eldest. His coffin was carried by his ten strong sons and followed by my two sisters and I.

His work legacy is the many fine buildings throughout the area, which he built or repaired and several dozen of his boats all over N. Ireland, Cavan and other counties. Most of his sons carry on the tradition and have worked on constructions all over the world.

He was special to us, his family, but we frequently meet others who remember him for his skill but most of all for his humanity.

Roseanna Donohoe.

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