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Centenarian still hitting all the right notes

When you interview Johnny Murphy, you have to reach for the calculator, the statistics are so formidable…as are his stories.

Johnny celebrated his hundredth birthday recently. He discharged himself from hospital to be at his birthday so he wouldn’t let his friends down, particularly his music allies.

He had fallen at home, but his outwardly slight frame hides a steely determination. For the athlete of over half a century, hospital was not a runner. Friendly neighbours and local medics kept an eye on him though.

Johnny Murphy is as valuable as gold in An Cheathrú Rua. He is the town’s treasure.

He was born in Carlow in 1923, the son of a Garda from Dublin. At the age of seven – all of 93 years ago – he took up his fiddle and has never left it down since.

“I did like a bit of trout fishing,” he says, and which had a lifelong role in his life.

Anything Johnny takes up he seems to be good at.

He enjoyed sprinting but not in the way that yielded prestigious medals or championships; that came from lifting himself off the ground!

And he took his success to such a height that in 1947 he became Leinster Pole Vault champion (the War Years had closed down the athletics championships). An action photo of one of his vaults hangs in his house.

Was it the winning one? Probably. Who knows? “It was so long ago,” he says – a frequently used phrase in this conversation.

Caption: Johnny Murphy on the fiddle. He has been playing the instrument for 93 years. Pic: Seán Ó Mainnín

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