Arty breakfast marks end of Joe’s gallery career

TEACUPS clicked at the cafe in Cork’s Crawford Art Gallery at a breakfast in honour of caretaker Joe Murphy, who is retiring after 25 years of service.

Joe, 65, says he is delighted to be retiring in good health and plans to dedicate some of his leisure time to voluntary organisations such as Meals on Wheels.

Originally from Boherbue, Co Cork, and now living in the city suburb of Blackrock with his wife Mary, he admits that until he started his job at the gallery, he didn’t even know the building existed.

“The only time we went to Cork city was when there was a match on in the old Athletic Grounds.

“When I joined the Crawford, I got to know the workings of the gallery and educated myself along the way about the paintings.

“At first, I knew very little about paintings. But I looked at all the exhibitions and listened to what people said about them. I wouldn’t be an expert but I have gained knowledge.”

Joe says he “never got a handle” on contemporary art though.

“People would tell me that schoolchildren coming into exhibitions would see seven or eight different things in an abstract painting whereas I’d see nothing. I’d be old- fashioned. I go more for traditional paintings.”

He has met many famous people. He remembers being introduced to actor and TV presenter Michael Palin. “He opened an exhibition here about 15 years ago. I met the artist William Crozier, who died recently. I met Pauline Bewick, Sean Scully and the late Tony O’Malley.”

Before joining the Crawford, Joe worked at Verolme Cork Dockyard for 21 years before it closed in the 1980s. “Very few of my colleagues got permanent jobs after the closure. I was very lucky to get the job. It has been a very exciting job, meeting interesting people every day.”

Asked if he’ll miss his job, he says: “I will, up to a point. But you have to be positive and move on. I’ll certainly visit the gallery and will go and see exhibitions. I’d like to see the gallery progressing for the benefit of the people of Cork. It’s a real jewel in the city.”

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