Fr. Michael Murphy

No one knows when this Sequoiadendron Giganteum (Giant Sequoia-Californian redwood) was planted outside the main door of St. Mary’s Cathedral, Killarney.

Because the tree is believed to be approx. 100 years old, its planting may be connected with the completion of the Cathedral in 1912.

This is my favourite tree because it’s planted on the site of a famine grave as the Cathedral was used as a hospital during the famine.  The planting of evergreen trees is a very old tradition in the church.  During the troubles in Northern Ireland the Community here in Killarney decorated this tree with over 3000 lights to remember all those who died in the troubles.  The lighting of the tree at Christmas time was a sign of everlasting hope for mankind.


Father Michael Murphy, the only person in Ireland to have been on three winning tidy Town’s Committees; Sneem, Kenmare & Killarney. Kerry Tidy Town’s own hero born in Raheen in 1925 and was one of eight children.

He heard the word tidy for the first time when his father asked him to be “tidy with that sup of hay” when he was four years old. At Raheen National school 1930 he remembers Arbour Day when the school children planted lime trees provided by the Department of Education

In St. Brendan’s he took an active part in all sports before going to Maynooth where he became Chairman of the “Gardening Society”. He gained a great knowledge of shrubs and plants. His first tidy town’s encounter was in Tralee but it wasn’t until he was moved to Cillín Tiarne that he became involved, along with Con O’Connell of Bord Failte, in the tidy town’s work.

He came to Killarney as a priest in 1971 where he joined up with Councillor Michael Courtney in promoting the tidy town’s campaign which was poorly supported in Killarney, at the time. In 1981 he moved to Sneem which already had an active tidy town’s and under his leadership they won the overall title in 1987.

Stephen Newell drew up a five year plan for Sneem to win the tidy towns with a list of 300 projects and with Father Michael’s leadership they won the overall title again after three years in 1987.

By 1990 it was time for another move and Kenmare was his next posting. Stephen Newell had prepared a plan for Kenmare in 1988. Father Murphy had this updated and they won the All Ireland in 2000.

He RETIRED! back to Killarney in 2004 where he rejoined the Tidy Town’s Committee after 33 years. His experience, knowledge, example, enthusiasm and dedication were pivotal in Killarney winning the overall title last year.

This three in a row has never and probably will never be equalled.

Father Murphy is to Tidy Towns what Mick O’Dwyer is to football. He is an example to young and old. His motto is simple, “Keep at it”. Tidy Town’s in not rocket science, nto only does it create a better place in which we live, it also builds and bonds a community.

He is now known by the length and breadth of Ireland as ‘Father Tidy’, an inspiration and a Towering example to all volunteers in Tidy Towns, Kerry’s own Father Michael Murphy.