Theresa (Nana Tess) Murphy, (nee Hoban) died a short few hours into her 83rd birthday after many decades of illness. For fifty years, Tess defied the odds and all expert medical predictions and raised a family of eight children and witnessed the birth and raising to adulthood of 19 grandchildren and eleven great grandchildren...and her family is still growing.
Tess was born in Walkin Street, Kilkenny but was raised in Pearse Street and Connolly Street in the Butts before moving to Fr. Murphy Square and then returning to Pearse Street to raise her family after marrying her husband, Dick, whom she met and fell in love with in the Woollen Mills in Kilkenny as a teenager.
A neighbour and work mate from the local Woollen Mills, set up by Lady Dysart to create local employment in a dark economic time in Irish history and provide an alternative to immigration, said that not only was she a local beauty, but she was known through Kilkenny at the time as ‘The Fish of the Nore’, such were her skills as a gifted swimmer in Kilkenny’s popular river swimming spots in the Meadows and the Weir.
But the nickname she cared for most was the one given to her by all her grandchildren and all the children of her beloved Butts community - ‘Nana Tess’ - the woman with the lollipops and a kind word and smile for every child on her street. Her oldest son Edward said in his eulogy how he remembered being stopped at her front door in Pearse Street and being asked by a bunch of four and five year olds he had never seen before ‘How do you know our Nana Tess?’
In a touching tribute by neighbouring families in the Butts a guard of honour by children in the community was organised outside her house as her funeral cortege brought her one last time through the community she loved so much and had spent so many happy years raising her children in. Each of the local children presented her family with a lollipop as a thank you for all the lollipops, sweets and kindness ‘Nana Tess’ had given to them over the years.
All her family took great comfort in knowing that in her later years in the Butts she was surrounded by the best and most caring neighbours in Ireland who watched out for her constantly.
She will also be remembered by many Kilkenny people for her years spent working in the legendary Mayfair Ballroom during the height of its success in the golden years of the showband era. She was the envy of many neighbours and teenage girls for being on first names terms with every major showband member in Ireland - from Dickie Rock to Brendan Shine
Tess, who came from a large family herself, was no stranger to hardship or difficult financial times and she knew from firsthand experience the struggle of raising a large family in the Ireland of that time.
Her experience and awareness of her own parents’ and grandparents’ poverty and her own struggles and her memories as a child and a mother gave her a personal understanding of her neighbours’ battles with financial hardship that lead her to a lifelong involvement in forming and supporting many community support groups with her neighbours.
These included the Sunday Night Bingo committee which raised and distributed local fundraising to those struggling and vulnerable families, helping to get the O’Neill Centre off the ground and working for the elderly and those living alone or in need in her community. She was also active all her life in encouraging and developing services for older neighbours, children, teenagers, residents and neighbourhood groups over a lifetime of caring for those she lived beside.
Tess was also instrumental and a quiet but passionate supporter in encouraging the development of the local Fr. McGrath Family Centre in its early and critical years at a time when few could see its real future value to children or families in the Butts and Kilkenny, and where her son, Stephen, and eldest daughter, Georgina, work.
Tess was as much loved as she will be missed by many families in the Butts estate. She was a wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother whose impact, values, social conscience and sense of sacrifice for her family and the common good will continue in and through the generations she helped to seed.
In her passing we are all reminded ‘Do not ask for whom the bells tolls’ ..... for all of us lost someone – a friend, a good neighbour, a Christian and social activist – and most importantly, for those she loved and who loved her most – a mother, sister, and grandmother. And with her passing, all of our communities lost to our streets, an all too rare ‘Nana Tess’.
She will always be remembered by her children as one half of a great love affair with her late husband, Dick, that they as children were honoured to be witness to and raised in the shadow of.
Always remembered by her surviving sisters Bernie, Pauline, Peggy, Nannie, Lena and brother Paddy and her many nephews and nieces and her children - Georgina, Edward, Lar, Tony, Stephen, Niall, Helen and Derek and her grandchildren and great grandchildren whose memory they will keep alive to the generations that follow.
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