The late Peter Murphy

June 9, 2011 in Back in the day, Culture, Quiz Show

My own copy of a Peter Murphy quiz book

The death occurred on Friday last of Peter Murphy.  He was 88.  Some remember him as the the host of Landmark, RTÉ‘s farming programme, which ran from the 1960s to the 1980s.  Others remember him as the host of Cross Country Quiz, a county-versus-county quiz on Irish TV.  Yet more will have one of his 14 published quiz books on their shelves.  But, for me, he was the man who compiled the Quizword in the Sunday Independent for the past 20 years.

Quizword, a crossword whose clues are trivia questions, is a shared passion for me, my mother and, on the other side of the fence, my father-in-law.  Every Sunday for the past indefinable number of years, I have assisted one with its completion and then done my best to give gentle hints to the other later on in the day.  I can only hope that the ‘Sindo’ will keep it going but the worry persists that, even if they do, it will never be the same.

Peter Murphy only took up creating the Quizword after he had retired from a very active life as both a farming organiser (with Macra na Feirme and the IFA) and TV and radio star.  A noted public speaker in his youth, he became the voice of authority on all things trivia after landing the role as host of Cross Country Quiz, the most popular quiz program on RTÉ, Ireland’s sole TV station at the time.

From that point on, he was always willing to travel the byroads and highways of Ireland, acting as guest quiz master for almost every event that contacted him and asked.

Just last year, I noticed a letter he wrote to the Sunday Independent, marking the death of our local hero in these parts, Dermot Earley.  They had met several times, he remembered, but the last time was in the 1980s when he was in the “picturesque village” of Gorthaganny, to host a quiz.  Gorthaganny is about as small a place as you can imagine: it has a church, one pub, a primary school and the local hall, where the quiz presumably took place.  The thought that he graced what must have been a small, rural quiz with his presence makes me sad that I mustn’t have been of an age to even notice it happening.

Throughout the 1980s, he also hosted the All-Ireland quiz of that time.  This featured qualifiers throughout the country, leading to a national final à la the Rehab All-Ireland Quiz.  However, this event had an unusual twist in that, at the end of the team quiz, the top 10 finishers had to nominate one of their number to go on stage and take part in a last person standing event to decide which team took home the cup.

Peter Murphy did more than anyone else to make Ireland a quizzing nation.  Whether they’ve done well or poorly, almost everyone in this country has taken part in a table quiz at some point.  Until quite recently, a large percentage of the questions used in those quizzes probably came from a Peter Murphy quiz book.

He was on my list of people who I intended to interview for this site.  Alas, that will never happen now.

2 responses to The late Peter Murphy

  1. ” Quizword, a crossword whose clues are trivia questions, is a shared passion for me, my mother and, on the other side of the fence, my father-in-law. ”

    Yes, but you and your mother don’t sub-contract 😉

  2. KIF said on June 9, 2011

    that’s some good stuff John. love reading your take on your life; thoughtful, personal, and humble. good stuff. KIF

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