Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

How deep is their love

Dwina Murphy married Bee Gee Robin Gibb in July 1985

When Dwina Murphy from Co Tyrone was a schoolgirl she decided she'd like to marry one of the legendary Bee Gees. Eighteen years later, she did. Here, Mrs Robin Gibb tells Peter Robertson about her love match, being a Druid - and how her husband was once asked for his autograph at gunpoint

One night in 1967 at their home in Kilskeery, Co Tyrone, while watching The Bee Gees sing on Lulu's TV show, Thelma Murphy turned to her 14-year old sister Dwina and asked her a question.

"She said: 'If you could marry one of them, which one would it be?'" Dwina remembers. "I looked at Barry and thought 'Umm, no'. Then, at that moment, Robin did a little jump as if Maurice had pinched his bum. It was so funny and showed he had a good sense of humour, so I replied 'I'd marry that one!'"

On July 31, 1985, Dwina did marry Robin Gibb, the famous fraternal pop group. More than two decades on, their relationship is Staying Alive.

And, seeing them so content, it seems hardly worth asking Dwina, as one of the band's hits had it: How Deep Is Your Love?

"We're very close" says this calm, cherubic, intellectual blonde, who is now 53. "Most relationships have a beginning, a middle and an end, but ours keeps reinventing itself. We still have a good time together, and I really feel that Robin is my best friend."

Beautiful homes

The Gibbs now divide their time between beautiful homes in Oxfordshire, London and Florida - where Tony and Cherie Blair have controversially just spent their festive season.

It's all a far cry from Dwina's humble beginnings in Kilskeery, where she was born (Edwina, on December 22, 1952) and brought up in a small terraced house.

"In the village there were about 10 houses, two churches, a school and a few surrounding farms, one of which my Aunt May had," she explains.

"My family has been there for generations and are still there. When I went back a few years ago, I discovered that we're related to most people in the neighbourhood!"

Dwina's father, Edwin Murphy, was a mechanical engineer. Her mother, Sadie, once worked for a telephone company. Siblings Raymond (a car mechanic) and Thelma (a herdswoman) live on farms around Kilskeery.

"We had a magical childhood," Dwina says. "It was different to anyone else's I've ever spoken to. For example, B-Men (B Special Constabulary) used to shoot at targets behind our local hall, and my brother and I used these targets in winter to slide down the hill. Our bums would be freezing because snow would come through the bulletholes!"

Dwina attended the Queen Elizabeth II Primary School in the village and later the Collegiate grammar in Enniskillen.

"I was totally into art and literature," she says. "I won art competitions from the age of five. And I read lots of books - to start with, Enid Blyton, then Hans Christian Anderson's and The Brothers Grimm fairytales, and then mythology, which I fell in love with at nine, the age when I started writing stories myself.

"Later on, I began writing poetry too."

Dwina not only still has her earliest poems, she can even recite many from memory, including one she wrote at 15 which was entitled Ireland's Call.

"I had an idea that one day I'd be a famous artist or writer ... I was totally in love with Seamus Heaney!" confesses Dwina, who got to meet her hero years later.

"I went to the Yeats Society in Ireland when Seamus was doing a workshop. He gave me the thumbs-up on a poem I'd written about Mullaghmore, and I was so excited. I then made him a cup of coffee and handed it to him on a doily, under which I slipped a little poem I'd written to him, and then I ran like billy-o!"

Talking of scarpering, Dwina says: "From a very early age, I had wings on my feet and the feeling that I was going to fly away one day."

In her late teens she went to London to attend Hornsea Art College (which is now Middlesex Polytechnic), then ran a Bean Bag factory in Islington.

"I remember Angie Bowie coming in and ordering a set of Bean Bags," she continues. "She invited me to a party, but I didn't manage to get to it."

However, in 1980 Dwina did make contact with her cousin Ken, who had got a job as bodyguard and driver for Robin Gibb.

"At the time I was very good friends with the actress Sarah Miles, and she told me she would like to meet Robin.

"So, before I met Robin, I put him and Sarah together.

"It didn't work out. But, when he was at her house in Mayfair, he saw some of my drawings (which were from mythology and semi-erotic) and asked to see more.

"We were nervous when we first met. In fact, he was peeping at me from behind a curtain, and I was trying to look at him! He commissioned me to do some drawings for him, and then he asked if I'd join him while he looked for a new place to live.

"Little did I realise the house we chose (in Barnes, south-west London) was the one we'd end up living in together!"

Dwina admits that, at the time, she was struggling to meet payments on her own modest house in Plumstead. "On Robin's first visit, he wanted to use the bathroom and I wouldn't let him because it was one of those old Victorian outdoor toilets!"

Around musicians

But she remembers that, from the outset, they got on very well together. " I'd been around musicians before, even in Ireland. A cousin (named Bill) was a trumpeter in the Chad Show Band from Ballinamallard, and I had a thing with the lead guitarist for a while.

"I was always attracted to musicians and poets. Robin's grandmother was a Lynch from Galway, and I discovered that a Lynch from his family had married a Brown in my family in Galway many years ago. Robin and I even have the same birthday!" she exclaims.

"Actually, we both had a feeling that we'd have a child together."

On January 21, 1983, Dwina gave birth to their son, Robin John, affectionately known as RJ. She insists that his arrival had nothing to do with her and Robin's decision to get married.

"I had never wanted to get married," she confides. "But Robin and I were applying for Green Cards in America, and that was going to be much easier if we were married. We also felt it would make life more stable for RJ."

Robin has a son, Spencer, and daughter, Melissa, from his first marriage, and Dwina says they both get on well with her and Robin senior and junior. And, apparently, Dwina also hits it off with Barry's wife Linda, and their late brother Maurice's wife Yvonne. Being with a Bee Gee, let alone as a wife and mother of his child, was never going to be easy, considering their large female following.

"Mostly the fans have been very nice and sweet, but I have had some giving me the evil eye and threatening me" says Dwina.

"One woman came up to me and said, 'I don't know what he's doing with you ... I would be much better'. I turned round and said, 'Well, have him ... if you can!'

"I've never been jealous of the fans. If Robin wants to enjoy them and they want to enjoy him, that's fine. He and I have a very open relationship and have always kept freedom in sight.

"He's free to go wherever he wants and see whoever he wants. But, even if we're away from each other for periods of time, there's a bond and nothing's going to break it."

Dwina does admit to being, however, is protective of her husband - both from media critics and the world's weirdos.

"I feel incredibly defensive of him, all the time. If anybody tried to hurt him, I'd kill them ... absolutely, right there and then. I know why Olivia Harrison leapt to her husband George's defence. I would feel the same way. I don't like it if people mentally hurt Robin either."

But Dwina has her very own secret weapons - poetry and meditation. " Writing poetry is almost like writing spells" she reckons. "I also believe meditation to be protective, and I meditate every day."

Stone circle

Dwina is, in fact, patroness of the Order Of Bards, Ovates & Druids. She has even built a stone circle on an old tennis court in the grounds of the Gibbs' Oxfordshire home - a former training centre for priests dating back to the 12th century.

"If Druidry has a bad name, it's because of Julius Caesar; the Romans hated Druids and gave them a very bad press!" Dwina explains, insisting her involvement is anything but scary. "I don't dress up in robes and things. But I sometimes wear white and go out there. It's just a love of nature and beauty."

From the Oxfordshire house (which they've had since 1984), Dwina established and ran The Yeats Club (devoted to the works of WB Yeats) for two years, and she's written many books, several of which have been published.

As Mrs Robin Gibb, she concedes: "Sometimes I've had problems getting taken seriously."

But no longer, it seems. Sketches she's written and voiced involving Irish gossips called The Gabby Aggies have been broadcast on Manx Radio (on The Isle Of Man where, coincidentally, the Gibb brothers were born) and staged at the Irish Arts Center in New York.

"Georgeanne Heller at the Irish Arts Center discovered people like Jim Sheridan and Frank McCourt. She sort of discovered me too!"

Checkpoint

Dwina returns to Ireland at least once a year - sometimes with Robin. " The last time, we were driving up from Dun Laoghaire into the north and, as we crossed the border, we were stopped at a checkpoint," she remembers.

"A young soldier stuck his gun through the window and asked for Robin's licence. When he recognised Robin, the soldier suddenly started fumbling for a piece of paper to get an autograph, and the gun was waggling all over the place!

"After Robin obliged and we drove off, he said, 'Well, that's the first time I've been asked for an autograph at gunpoint!'

"I miss Ireland when I'm away" Dwina adds, sincerely.

"I love the wit and the wisdom. I'd like to spend more time in Ireland in the future, but we Irish are great travellers and feel at home anywhere in the world."

As for her future with Robin, she says: "I think we'll always be together. It's very difficult to separate brothers and sisters.

Once you get into a relationship where you have that kind of family feeling with each other, it's hard to break that.

"Other women don't bother me at all. I don't mind being the head wife, a concubine, or whatever. As long as nobody tries to take my position."



Were you starstruck when you met Robin?

Me, starstruck? No, not at all. I'd met so many people in showbusiness by that time. I don't get starstruck.

What drew you both together?

There was a little bit of eccentricity there. I think also something creative, definitely. I have great admiration for any creative works, and I'm attracted to people who have creative minds and are intelligent.

Was it love at first sight?

It was definitely attraction. The love has definitely built over the years.

How did you relationship develop?

Robin commissioned some pen & ink drawings from me - the whole story of Demeter and Persephone. I made them more and more detailed so we could keep seeing each other. I never finished them. I feel quite superstitious about finishing them now.

Did he ever pay you for them?

Oh yes, he paid me up-front, so I owe him! But he's had hundreds of drawings since then.

Were your family impressed that you landed a big star?

I don't know. I suppose everyone was a bit excited. My brother's children have loved being able to go to concerts and things.

How often have you been on tour with the Bee Gees?

I've been on most of the tours since I've been with Robin. If they're on short promotional trips, I often don't bother going, but I love the excitement of world tours. There's an amazing atmosphere and I'm so proud - partly because I get to hear the songs right from their infancy.

Apart from Bee Gees music, which other music do you like?

I love Irish music by Mary Black and Clannad. I think Maire Brennan (lead singer of Clannad) has a fabulous voice - one of the finest female voices in the world.

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