Tributes have been paid to veteran Belfast actor and Lyric Theatre stalwart, JJ Murphy who has died suddenly at the age of 86.
The actor, who worked for many years at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, died suddenly on Friday 8 August. The 86-year-old worked right to the end, having just finished filming scenes in the hit TV series Game of Thrones. He had also been cast in the forthcoming Dracula Untold film, shot in Northern Ireland.
Mr Murphy treaded the boards of the Lyric alongside Hollywood stars Liam Neeson and Ciaran Hinds, having trained with the Ulster Group Theatre School in 1948. His last appearance on stage at the Lyric was as the character Moses Docker in We Do It For Love in 2007. He was a life-long member of Equity, the actors' trade union. When he wasn't working himself, he frequently attended productions at the Lyric and was well-known for encouraging upcoming talent. His other film credits included Mickybo and Me, Cal and Angela's Ashes.
The Lyric Theatre offers sincere condolences to his widow Mary and family. His funeral will take place at 11am on Wednesday 13 August at St Brigid's Church in Derryvolgie Avenue.
Fellow actor Niall Cusack, who is also a stalwart of the Lyric Theatre, writes about JJ Murphy:
"I made my professional debut at the Lyric Theatre in a production of 'Mother Courage' by Brecht. On the first day of rehearsals at the old church in Cromwell Road I was feeling rather nervous. A short stocky man with glasses and a full beard bounced up to me and introduced himself in his trademark basso profundo: "Hello! I'm Jimmy Murphy. What's your background?" Needless to say, this did wonders for my confidence!
I soon discovered that Jimmy's bark was considerably worse than his bite. I could not have had a better teacher to initiate me into professional habits of work and a professional attitude of mind. Jimmy was a committed trade unionist and a dedicated Equity activist.
Jimmy's performances were invariably very carefully constructed: he was a very shrewd observer of human behaviour. He also displayed an unrivalled vocal technique. One of the great pleasures of working with him was a distinctively West Belfast wit that punctured all pomposity and pretension.
In recent years I would run into Jimmy on the Lisburn Road and we would chat as often as not in Irish. I am delighted that he died in harness, filming, because he was indefatigable.
His death is a great loss to the theatrical profession in the North of Ireland. A wealth of tradition and experience has been lost forever. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis!”