"THE IMPORTANCE of Tom Murphy's contribution to Irish theatre is immeasurable and outstanding. We have had no greater use of language for the stage than in the body of work produced by Tom Murphy since his earliest work in the 1960s."
With these words, Uachtarán na hÉireann Michael D Higgins paid tribute to the Tuam playwright Tom Murphy, who has died at the age of 83. Mr Murphy, who had a long association with Druid Theatre Company, was one of Ireland's most distinguished and important playwrights, whose body of work includes such outstanding works as Conversations On A Homecoming, A Whistle In The Dark, Famine, and The Gigli Concert.
Uachtarán Higgins said it "was with great sadness that Sabina and I have learned of the death of Tom Murphy". He paid tribute to the writer, saying his themes not only "influenced the very essence of Irishness - immigration, famine and loss - they were universal in their reach".
"From the early beginnings of his writings in Tuam, Tom Murphy produced a unique and often provocative body of work," Uachtarán Higgins said. "He was above all the great playwright of the emigrant, more than anyone capturing, in a poignant, creative way, the transience that is at the heart of the emigrant experience."
"It was such a joy to meet Tom so many times over the years, and a particular pleasure for any of us who have been privileged to call him our friend," Uachtarán Higgins continued. "Sabina and I wish to express our condolences to his wife Jane and to Mary, Bennan, Johnny, Nell, and their extended family, and his wide circle of friends. I will miss him deeply, but he will be fondly missed by all of us who had the privilege of knowing him."
Druid said it was "deeply saddened" by Mr Murphy's passing and that "we have lost a friend, a colleague, a great Irish writer, and man of the theatre". In a statement, the company said "Tom Murphy, already an established Irish writer, became Druid’s Writer in Residence in 1983. His relationship with Druid marked an important step for the young company and led to a decades long relationship culminating in the productions of DruidMurphy in 2013 and Brigit/Bailegangaire in 2014. For four decades his work resonated with Irish audiences, creating a deep and enduring legacy."
Druid first produced plays by Tom Murphy in 1984 - Famine and On The Outside - before premiering Conversations On A Homecoming in 1985 and Bailegangaire, featuring Siobhán McKenna, in December of that year, eventually taking the plays to Britain and the USA. Druid would go on to produce The Gigli Concert, a production of which opened the newly refurbished Mick Lally Theatre on Druid Lane. In 2013, the company produced DruidMurphy - Plays by Tom Murphy which toured Ireland, the UK and the US, winning critical acclaim and many awards in Ireland and abroad. In 2014, Druid presented a new production of Bailegangaire with Marie Mullen, alongside the world premiere of Brigit at the Town Hall Theatre.
Galway East TD Seán Canney also paid tribute to Mr Murphy saying the Tuam writer "held up a mirror to the West of Ireland and put its people onto the world stage". He said: "The richness and beauty of his language shone through even though his plays were often hard-hitting. His themes were universal but he brought great recognition to the town of Tuam and made a huge contribution to Ireland's artistic heritage."