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
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.