Ashling Murphy was happiest, she said in a Facebook POST, when she was playing music with her sister Amy.
She posted a video of them both sitting in the family kitchen: she on fiddle, her sister on concertina. They play reels, expertly and confidently, with that familiarity and lovely precise collaboration that comes so naturally and easy to musical families. It’s a joy to watch.
It’s gorgeous music, full of lift and excitement. Their connection and the happiness they share in playing together is obvious.
There’s another video of the sisters at the Tullamore Trad Fest. Two beautiful girls from Blueball, stylish and talented, laughing on camera as they introduce a “Xena the Warrior Princess hornpipe”. Their first smiles at the end of the tunes are for each other.
Ashling was described by Comhaltas as “an exceptionally talented young lady who made an unforgettable impression on all who had the good fortune to know her.” She featured on Concert Tours and was a member of the National Folk Orchestra of Ireland. Obviously music was a huge part of her life.
A picture of their family emerged yesterday in the interviews with devastated neighbours and friends. The girls and their brother Cathal were raised by Ray and Kathleen, and there was “never anything the Murphys wouldn’t do for the community,” a family friend said.
We heard about the habitual kindnesses that make a huge difference – playing music for older people at the Christmas party; the encouragement shown to children learning fiddle; the openness to helping others.
“She was the kindest girl you’d ever meet,” her classmate said. Everyone spoke of her brightness, her happiness, her love of life. “She always had a big smile,” said a woman who used to see her out running.
The children at school “idolised her”, we heard. The cards her pupils drew today and placed on the altar in the classroom all showed their young teacher with a smile or holding a small hand.
One heartbroken little girl told RTÉ’s Drivetime that she had come to leave yellow sunflowers for her fiddle teacher because Ashling was so bright and happy. She was much-loved. From her Ballyboy Comhaltas branch, a friend described her as “a credit to her family, a fantastic fiddle player, such a glowing star.”
Yet she has been murdered, her life brutally and tragically ended even as it was just flourishing further.
How can this happen? It is incomprehensible, almost beyond belief. Impossible, too, to imagine the grief of her family. All we could do last night, like so many others around the country, was light a candle and pray for all of them – that they will be comforted and loved and supported in their unimaginable sorrow.
There is evil in the world, and it is dark and violent and terrifying and unfathomable. We are made fearful by it.
But there is also love and light and brightness and the enrichment of music. That was Ashling Murphy’s life. Perhaps it is the best way for her to be remembered.
Suaimhneas síoraí uirthi. Ár fíor chomhbhrón le Kathleen, Raymond, Amy agus Cathal.