A SCHOLARSHIP in creative writing at UCC is being established to honour a talented student who died aged just 23 in 2015 as a result of heart failure due to an underlying condition.
The Eoin Murray Memorial Scholarship in Creative Writing will be open to all students in the College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences. It’s expected that the inaugural scholarship, worth €1,500, will be awarded in May, 2018.
The family and friends of Eoin, who was working towards his BA when he died, are fundraising for the scholarship which will help the awardees over the years to spend time working on their creative writing. It is a fitting tribute to Eoin who was a multi-talented poet, musician and student.
Brian Murray, a brother of Eoin, who works as a chef on a yacht with a base in Palma in Majorca, took part in the Palma Marathon this month, with the proceeds of his sponsorship going towards the scholarship.
Brian will never forget receiving the phone call with the bad news from his father in the middle of the night when he was on a charter yacht in Dubrovnik.
“It was a shock to hear that Eoin had died,” says Brian. “He had a congenital heart defect known as Ebstein Anomaly which is quite rare. It was diagnosed a couple of years previously. The doctors were monitoring it and Eoin was going for regular check-ups. It was thought it was under control and that there was no need to be worried. So it was unexpected and there were no symptoms, really.” However, Eoin, who wrote all the time, sometimes in a stream-of-consciousness style, would record whatever was going on with him.
“On the day he died, it seems he must have had a small attack. He would have written about it to help calm himself. At the time, he was living in an apartment with friends in Cork.” Eoin, who was the youngest of four children, from Carrigtwohill, was a high achiever.
“He got 580 points in the Leaving Cert without overly applying himself. He had done a couple of courses in UCC including applied maths and physics. He seemed to be very happy doing arts, studying history of art and philosophy.”
Brian has only positive things to say about his brother.
“He was an amazing guy. I feel lucky more than anything to have had time with him. I’ll never again have the kind of conversations I had with him. He was amazingly artistic and very clever. He had been in local bands, playing drums and bass. He also played the piano and a bit of ukulele and he acted in plays.
“I’ll always remember one particular weekend. On Friday night, he was doing a gig in Cork. On Saturday night, he was playing in Belfast and on Sunday night, he was in Kerry doing a play as Gaeilge. He was about 18 at the time.” Eoin’s varied creative outlets kept him stimulated.
“He was always pushing himself artistically and had decided that he was going to focus on writing.” Eoin had self-published two books of poetry. His family is collecting and organising his writing chronologically with a view, perhaps, to publishing the work. Apparently, Eoin was keen to have an anthology of his poetry published by the time he was thirty.
An interest in nature was yet another facet of this young man.
“We’re from the countryside outside Carrigtwohill. Eoin loved swimming and nature. You’d find him out in the garden a lot. There was something very special about him. He would have done a lot of meditation and mindfulness. He was quite a gentle person. He was really insightful. He wouldn’t have been the loudest of guys but he’d hit you with witty comments. I was with him a lot growing up because we were closest in age. In a way, he was our baby.”
The eldest in the family is Maria, followed by James, Brian and Eoin.
Eoin’s death must have been devastating for his family.
“I’ve always been extremely proud of my family,” says Brian. “We have always been very close. I thought they were incredible before what happened. Now, we have this amazing support from each other.
“When a family loses a child, it can result in people separating. But mam and dad take care of each other so well. I used to say to Maria before this happened that I had almost a complex that our parents’ relationship was too good to be attainable. They’re so perfect for each other. They’re a great support to each other. Obviously, it’s really tough for them. But we all try and have a positive outlook.” Brian says that Eoin “would literally read and write all the time. It wasn’t him saying ‘I’m going to be a writer’. He was really doing it. He would tell people he was sorry he couldn’t meet them as he had books to read. He had hundreds of books in his little bedroom at home and lots of books that he had written. As we try to get his writings in order, it’s hard for us to know what he’d have liked to have published.” Eoin had applied for the Quercus scholarship at UCC which recognises academic excellence.
“He was down to the last few and was close to getting it,” says Brian.
Maria, who is a qualified secondary school art teacher and lectures in multi-media at CIT, says that her family will continue to hold a tribute night to Eoin around August 14 (the date of his passing). From next year, they will invite the scholarship students to perform some of their work at the tribute night held in the Long Valley’s Hayloft Bar, which is the venue for Ó Bhéal, a weekly poetry night that Eoin regularly attended.
“We feel it’s the perfect location to remember Eoin given its personal connection to him and its history in supporting poetry in Cork,” says Maria.
It will also be an opportunity to fund-raise for the following year’s scholarship.
Brian says Eoin “is always with me”.
“I’m always thinking of him. I find that with running in general, it clears my mind. When I’m running, I often feel that Eoin is with me but that’s just in my head. In our family, we have different outlooks. My parents are a bit more spiritual and religious than I am.” But clearly, they all pull together to honour their beloved Eoin.
For anyone wishing to donate to the Eoin Murray Memorial Scholarship in Creative Writing, go to www.eoinmurray.org.
The Stream — first encounter
I sway over the stream, with one foot on a rock
And study with my eyes, the dips and flows and dives.
The broken branches, weathered rocks, even the weeds — all brothers of a single dream — sing to me from the stream.
My head begins to bow, into a darker deep
When suddenly, it catches me — riding the dips, tangled in weeds — a feather dancing in its sea!
Forgotten star, betrayed to gravity.
And what are we?
But feathers caught within a stream.