The family of murdered Offaly schoolteacher Ashling Murphy have spoken of a special girl, a little angel and their rock as they attempted to come to terms with the devastation of her sudden and inexplicable death.
Comforted by neighbours, friends and the local community in the rural townland of Blueball near Tullamore, they spoke of a young woman with energy, drive, commitment, talent and love.
The photographs on the walls of their family home reflect the love and pride that her parents have for all their children, and now they are trying to think about what life will be like without their youngest child, their baby girl, who had packed her life full and was just starting out on her career as a teacher with a life of opportunities ahead of her.
“The last thing she’d say in the morning going out was: ‘Mam, I love you’,” her devastated mother Kathleen said.
“She was just a special girl. She’s the youngest, a little angel,” her father Raymond said, with tears in his eyes.
“She was a brilliant girl in every sense of the word.
“She was a great worker, with great drive. A marvellous musician.
“She crammed so much into her short life.
“She played with Ceolta Ceoltoirí all over Ireland and all over the UK on the Ceoltas tours. She was in their youth choir and senior orchestra. She played all over and had so much respect shown to her by her peers.”
Ashling’s passion for music came from her family. Raymond has played for the Furey Brothers in the past, and later with the band Best Foot Forward.
Kathleen is also a talented musician, so Ashling was immersed in music and the country’s musical heritage from an early age.
Described as having had a natural talent, she played the fiddle and tin whistle, and had recently taken up mastering the difficult uilleann pipes.
But her musical exploration wasn’t just personal. Ashling (23) liked to share her talents. Despite being busy with work and hobbies she would teach local people music at the family home on Friday nights and all day Saturday, making sure that music would spread beyond her own family, and that its future as a traditional and cultural expression would be alive and vibrant.
In the corner of the room sat a box containing her instruments and equipment. Picking up her tin whistle delicately, dad Raymond almost whispered: “That’s Ashling’s.”
His daughter’s time as a teacher was to be tragically shortlived. The proud father said she had graduated from Mary Immaculate College in Limerick just last October.
Photographs show her with her partner Ryan Casey and with her family, smiling proudly, with her whole life ahead of her.