Athlone paid a fond farewell to one of the town’s most familiar faces on Monday morning when PJ ‘Poncho’ Murray was laid to rest.
The renowned photographer was an intrinsic member of the Athlone fabric and his stellar work captured the many historical, sporting and social moments of his home town.
Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser on Tuesday, former RTE Midlands news correspondent, Ciaran Mullooly, fondly recalled four decades of friendship with ‘Poncho’.
“I first met Poncho upon my arrival in Athlone thirty years ago and our friendship remained very much intact until his death last week.
“Poncho was an integral member of the Athlone community. He was a people person and always loved engaging in conversation. He was so proud of the heritage of Athlone and had a deep affiliation with the Defence Forces in Custume barracks with whom he travelled overseas on numerous occasions, capturing images which graced the media sphere,” Ciaran remarked.
A lifelong member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ ), Ciaran quipped that ‘Poncho’ was regularly the first person on the scene of a breaking news story, his “antenna” always in astute working order.
“As soon as a news story started to develop in Athlone, ‘Poncho’ always seemed to be aware of same and was regularly present at the scene before reporters would arrive - a true ‘newshound’,” Ciaran commented.
‘Poncho’ captured a plethora of vivid imagery which will live long in the mind when the historic and social fabric of Athlone is duly noted.
“’Poncho’s photographic genius was to the fore during the visit of Pop John Paul to Clonmacnoise in 1979, while he further captured the mood when Charles J Haughey visited Athlone to open the by-pass.
“When the social history of Athlone comes to be written ‘Poncho’ is certain to prominently feature. Mary O’Rourke and Paddy Cooney made significant contributions to the town of Athlone during their political careers, but ‘Poncho’ was always on hand to capture the important images on camera and this will be how he is most fondly remembered.
“It is the end of an era for Athlone and one of its most loved characters,” Ciaran concluded.
Following requiem Mass in SS Peter & Paul’s Church on Monday morning, ‘Poncho’ was laid to rest in Coosan cemetery.