Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Untimely deaths rock the tight-knit community of Mullaghbawn

The tight-knit community of Mullaghbawn has suffered a blow with the untimely deaths of two of its citizens within days of each other.

On Saturday (16th February), news filtered through of the sudden passing of Fr. Phelim McKeown, a native of the village, who had been administering in Caledon, Co. Tyrone.

The alarm was raised when Fr. Phelim (48) failed to turn up as expected to say Mass in Eglish on Saturday evening and, having been alerted by concerned parishioners, parish priest Fr. Sean McEvoy made his way to his home where he discovered him dead in bed.

Ordained in July 1996 in Mullaghbawn, Father Phelim served in parishes both North and South of the border including Saint Patrick’s Parish, Dundalk, Saint Peter’s Parish, Drogheda and Bessbrook. He was appointed Parish Priest of Kilsaran in August 2014 but unfortunately had to take leave due to ill health from 2016.  Recently he had made a gradual return to pastoral duties.  

Describing Fr. Phelim as “a very caring and pastoral priest”, Archbishop Eamon Martin led tributes to the popular cleric as he celebrated a special Mass on Tuesday, a day ahead of the funeral, which he was unable to attend due to prearranged obligations.

Archbishop Eamon said: “In recent months, Father Phelim had begun a gradual return to his pastoral duties, all the more reason why his death has come as such a shock to all of us. Father Phelim will be remembered as a very caring and pastoral priest who had a particular empathy for those who were suffering and struggling in anyway. He was very fondly thought of within his wide family circle and by those in the parishes where he ministered. I extend my sympathies to his brother, John, his extended family, his brother priests, and all who knew and loved him.”

Father Phelim was waked at the home of his aunt Leontia Strain in Mullaghbawn ahead of his funeral, which took place in St. Mary’s Church in the village on Wednesday.

Ann Murphy

Still coming to terms with the untimely demise of Fr. Phelim, the Mullaghbawn community was further rocked on Tuesday with the death of Mrs Ann Murphy, a former vice principal of St. Mary’s Primary School in the village.

Beloved wife of Eamon and mother of Ciara, Catriona and Niamh, Ann passed away peacefully at St. John’s Hospice in Newry.

A much loved and respected teacher, the St. Mary’s school community was saddened at the passing of their “beloved former Vice Principal” and extended deepest sympathy to her grieving family.

A talented sportswoman, Ann (née McCone) had spent her youth playing camogie for Carrickcruppen GFC, Armagh County as well the Sacred Heart Grammar School.

On its Facebook page, Carrickcruppen GFC recalled her time as “a star camogie player”: “On behalf of everyone at Carrickcruppen GAA and Youth Clubs, we extend our deepest sympathy to the family of Ann Murphy. As Ann McCone, she was a star camogie player for club, school and county. In the late sixties and early seventies, Ann was a member of our all -conquering teams alongside other star sports women such as Marian Delaney at a time when camogie was the first choice sport for girls in schools and clubs. In 1971, Anne had the unique distinction of captaining the Sacred Heart Grammar School team to win an All-Ireland Schools Camogie Final at Croke Park. That was a star studded team with other local girls Marian Courtney, Kathleen McAnulty, Anne McGuinness and Olive O’Rourke also featuring alongside numerous future Down and Armagh county players. That Anne was chosen as captain shows how exceptional was her talent as player and how much she was respected on and off the field. The records show that in the final Anne ‘played a captain’s part, she had just recovered from illness but she gave the team determination and the inspiration they needed. She had a wonderful game.’ 

“It should also be recorded that in the course of that championship she scored 9 goals and 2 points. Anne was unassuming and had an ever-present smile. She will forever be remembered in Carrickcruppen not only for her sporting achievements, but for her friendly and winning personality.  We share in the loss of the Murphy and McCone families. An exceptional lady has left us. Ar dhéis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.”

Ann’s daughter Niamh is a senior county player and the Armagh Ladies squad and management  also offered sympathy to the family.

Posting on its Facebook page, it said: “Armagh LGFA are saddened to hear of the passing of Anne Murphy, Mullaghbawn. Anne is the mother of our senior county player Niamh, wife of Eamon and mother of Ciara and Catriona. Our thoughts and prayers are with the extended Murphy family and in particular our team member Niamh.  Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam.

Ann’s requiem Mass was held in St. Mary’s church on Friday with interment following in the adjoining cemetery.