Tourism visionary who left a lasting legacy

Lifestyle: The Doonmore Hotel on Inishbofin turns 50 this weekend. Margaret Murray founded the family business and was its driving force for decades. Her son Andrew tells JUDY MURPHY how Margaret’s foresight and work ethic ensured its success.

As Margaret Murray stood in front of her family home on Inishbofin Island in 1968 and watched the roof being demolished, the mother-of-six was overwhelmed.  Knocking in the roof of her husband Paddy’s ancestral home had been her decision. The dream was to build a hotel. But at that moment, Margaret truly realised the enormity of the challenge ahead.

Inishbofin was an offshore island with no electricity or mod-cons and with a limited boat service. What if she had been wrong?

Some years previously, Margaret and Paddy had added on four bedrooms to their house and operated a successful B&B, but maybe this was a leap too far. As doubts filled her mind, a visiting priest from Clifden who was walking past, stopped to chat to Margaret. He reassured her that letting go of the past was vital in order to create something new. His words gave her courage.

The priest was right. The Doonmore Hotel opened in early June 1969 and this weekend, generations of the extended Murray and Mansfield families will gather to mark the golden anniversary of the thriving family business.

Margaret (née Mansfield) and Paddy Murray have both passed on, but their seven children (the youngest was born after the Doonmore opened), with their children and grandchildren will celebrate the couple’s achievement and legacy. The Doonmore, now under the management of Margaret and Paddy’s son, Andrew, and his partner, Donna, remains a family operation.

Seated on a bench across from the Doonmore, on a glorious Summer’s day, Andrew, a former primary school principal, recalls his mother’s vision and work ethic. Given his own passion and commitment, it’s clear that on his watch, the Doonmore – with its magnificent views over the ancient monastic settlement of High Island – will continue to thrive.

Andrew’s great-grandfather, Patrick Murray, built the original house where the hotel now stands, in the early 20th century.  Like several other locals, Patrick had a shop, explains Andrew, and judging by his receipt books, he was quite an entrepreneur.

This is a preview only. To read the rest of this feature, see this week’s Tribune.

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