Page 4 - The Kerry News 2018
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4 KERRY NEWS CHRISTMAS 2018 Helen a woman of Substance
Many of us think our life story is worthy of a book, but the truth is some people have packed enough into their lives to fill several volumes. And when all that experience is coupled with a lively and engaging personality, listening to that life story as recounted by Helen Murphy is both fascinating and heart-warming. Sitting by the fireside in her cosy Killarney home where she has lived for half a century, conversation moved from the past to the present and back again while each experience was punctuated with laughter. The highlight of this year
for many Irish people, was
the visit of Pope Francis. However for Helen this was particularly so, as she shares
a special experience with the current pontiff. Both had a lung removed as teenagers, and she delights in telling of their special connection and how such an operation over sixty years ago did nothing to hinder
Helen at work in JC Penney in New York
  Helen and Denis on their wedding day
either of their full and busy lives.
Helen grew up in Tarbert where her mother was from, and as her father was a guard, the family moved around the country over the years. It was no surprise then that Helen ended up married to a guard herself, but there was a lot
people, Helen laughs as she tells of putting curlers in her hair at night, wearing pretty blouses that her sisters sent over from America and sharing her special perfume with the other girls in her ward. She even kept her beautiful complexion by regularly applying egg-white face masks! Her glamorous sense of style began at an early age! Once a month they had a ‘free day’ when the boys would come over from the male wards and sit on the beds and chat to the girls, and many a romance blossomed during those visits. She tells of couples who met
came through from home and was relieved that there was no word of him getting married! When she arrived back in Ireland in 1959, Denis was there to meet her at Shannon airport. The rest, as they say,
is history. She cashed in her return ticket, they were married shortly afterwards and enjoyed forty-six years of married bliss in Killarney.
of life packed into the years before then. However, she
first met Denis Murphy, when she was only eight years old.
It was nine years later when she was seventeen that the
pair had their first date and Denis later became the love
of her life. But life intervened in a cruel way when Helen
was only fifteen years old and following a bout of pneumonia, she was diagnosed with TB and spent most of her teenage years in Edenburn Hospital, in Tralee which was originally the home of landlord Samuel Hussey. From 1937 to 1968
at Edenburn and went on to
get married and raise families together.
Those years were without doubt hard for a young girl to endure, however Helen emphasises how her life really took off after that. “I got through the medical and got my visa to America!” she beams, as she explained how delighted she was at how her life unfolded during three very happy years working at the J.C. Penny office in New York. While she says she had no qualifications for the job,
her openness and engaging personality impressed her employers and she soon took her place at her desk and her new life in America. While not in direct contact with Denis regularly at that time, she says she kept an ear on news that
“We bought that plot of land on Port Road, and built the house, selling the car and taking to the bicycles to help pay for it!” she laughs. Over the years they had five children, Denise, Patrick, Kevin, Aileen and Kathleen. TheyalsoranaB&Bintheir home, welcoming people
it was a sanatorium for TB patients and from then until it closed its doors in 1968 it became a convalescent home and hospital, catering mostly for orthopaedic and elderly patients. It was run by the Bon Secours nuns and closed its doors for the last time in October 1988.
from all over the world to Killarney. After retiring from the Guards, Denis spent thirteen years working at Muckross House, where he was well known and respected. Sadly Denis passed away twelve years ago. But Helen is never alone as she always has one
of her devoted grandchildren
to keep her company. While
her children, grandchildren
& great-grandchildren are
a great source of joy in her
life, Helen is also very fond
of travelling. Together with
her son Kevin, she has visited Venice three times, also Rome, London and Scotland and
also enjoyed a Mediterranean cruise. At home she is well
known as a beautiful singer
and a popular contributor to the Rambling House every month. Christmas will be spent with warm and happy memories, and a loving family around her in Killarney. She will cook a goose, which is tradition and
a little sentimental “It would
be nothing without the potato stuffing”, a recipe handed down from her beautiful mother Ellen. She has done Goose with the Potato stuffing for years, for all the family and now for herself and Kevin, followed
by a pavlova for dessert, and
a beautiful Christmas Pudding from one of her daughters.
Helen recently handed down
a cookery book to her eldest daughter Denice which she had originally purchased in 1960 “Full & Plenty” by Maura Laverty from Trant’s Bakery
in New Street, Killarney, as at the time she couldn’t boil and egg! A big change today as she can whip up a sponge or tart that would make Darina Allen envious.
The evening is spent with family and after their Christmas dinner the two of them take off to visit the rest of the family with Helen at the wheel – I won’t break any speed limits, she chuckles!
Mairead Robinson
 While spending four teenage years mostly in bed as they tried to clear her of TB would be a hard memory for most

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