Tribute to Father Pat - Judi Shimmell

My Tribute to Pat – My Best Friend, My Confidant, My Guide and My Inspiration

For the past ten years every morning I have been greeted with a huge smile and “Good Morning ma love! Did you sleep well?” Let me tell you, that really sets you up for the day!

About 6 months ago someone said to me after visiting Fr Pat when he was really quite poorly “I bet you didn’t bargain for any of this when he first moved in did you?” and the honest answer? No I didn’t… I didn’t bargain for the joy, laughter and fun that filled our home,

…for the amount that I was going to learn

…for the wonderful experiences that we shared and for the security of knowing he had my back… always….

…Nor for the stubbornness on his part ….and the lack of patience on mine!

…Or for the way he had of giving to people but not being that good at receiving,

…for his total disinterest in material goods and his disgust at greed,

…for his ability to see what was important and to cut out the rest,

…for his tolerance and optimism “cancel that wooden suit Jude” was his stock response to coming through yet another medical issue;

…for his compassion and empathy to those worse off than himself.

Yes, it got hard – for both of us, but you don’t walk away from someone you love just because things get hard.

But most of all I didn’t bargain for the love that filled our home.

So this is my tribute to the man I shared my life & home with for the past 10 (nearly 11 years)

Pat loved life and he loved people - some more than others, but hey he was human! For someone who at his own admission didn’t really understand love other than the Father’s love he did a fabulous job of showing it and of putting people at their ease. He used to say “judge me by my actions not my words”.

Fun – we had so much of that – helpless giggles over ridiculous things and the stories of his ‘adventures’…

Pat had so many adventures in his life – You heard from Fr Bernard about how they were shipwrecked but not about how he missed the lifeboats and first flotilla due to helping a lady and her daughter retrieve a treasured possession from the lowest deck… he was finally rescued into a local fishing boat - could see the shore and the welcome party… only for his ‘lift’ to go the opposite way… the fisherman went to collect his lobster pots before taking his human catch to shore! His adventures were part of who he was.

The train from Lourdes coming off the rails, or the train from Rome being quarantined, or when he was picked up by the police as ‘Roy James’ – the getaway driver for the Great Train Robbers, who had happened to escape from prison on Pats day off… and that’s the reason why many of the older priests in Nottingham diocese nick-named him ‘the Weasel’ as that was Roy James nick-name!

Or when, in order to avoid being caught illegally hitch hiking in Spain having to jump out of a fast moving lorry as it went round a tight bend coming down a mountain; Or Getting blown away in the garden whilst collecting the washing – he had hold of a sheet and… the wind “Just took me Jude and plonked me on the bush… Closer inspection showed a pair of spectacles sitting on top of the bush and a ‘Fr Pat’ shape in the bush – but no scramble marks…“How did you get out”? It bounced me out onto my knees – like it usually does!!! Apparently the bush at the front dealt with his intrusion in a similar way on a Friday night! Life was never predictable… or boring with Pat around…

At 4 Oakwood Drive as in his Parishes, he thoroughly enjoyed entertaining and having people round. He enjoyed good food, good drink and good company, As his guest you had the run of the kitchen… and the drinks cabinet! He was in his element and never more so than on his 80th birthday… “Don’t want a party love – just let people ‘drop in’ for a bacon butty…. Well 107 people ‘dropped in that day! And was he fazed? Not a jot – he loved it! The more the merrier in his book – When family and close friends called… he would stretch out his arms with the cry “Welcome Home!” Because 4 Oakwood Drive was just that… it was home. One of his brother priests once commented – “how come Pat is always surrounded by women?” And he was - right to the end – even in hospital.

Fr Pat sitting at the table, in his chair, inside or out and preside is one of my happiest memories – and there are so many – as am sure most of you here have your own special memories of him, your experience of him.

As you know, Pat was at his best when helping people, especially those who were in need. He had a way of managing to procure whatever it was they needed – A pint of milk on removals day; A lift to the station rather than catch the bus at silly o’clock in the morning? A cup of tea (or stronger), a hug and a listening ear when you didn’t even realise you needed it? The offer of a pub lunch or photocopying or food or clothes or furniture…

Patrick Raymond Murphy was born in Nottingham on 21st June 1929, the youngest of 6 brothers and sisters. He was proud to hail from Nottingham and for a long while was proud to support Forest (!). As a child he was spoiled rotten by his sister Hilda and indeed, eventually moved in to live with Hilda, often referred to as “The Ayatollah”, and her husband Paddy, often referred to as “Paddy – my brother in law: The greatest man I have ever known, the greatest man I ever wish to know.” plus his nephews Pat and Phil of whom he was immensely proud and cared for deeply.

Years ago Paddy told me that Pat was always destined to become a Priest, because of how he was – He was only 4 when he pawned his shoes to give the money to the lady who looked after him during the day.

He was a man of varied talents – as a Baker in his twenties his cakes and pastries were entered in competitions up and down the country and more often than not won prizes. He also did a stint in a stocking factory! His job was to ensure the seams were straight which meant that for the rest of his life he could not bear to see a crooked seam in a lady’s stocking – it would drive him mad! He spent time in the army – on national service then called up on Z reserve. As a young man he was an active member of the Young Christian Workers group and said that had fuelled his passion for the development of young people, He was a competent ballroom dancer, a champion table tennis player and formidable (dirty?) opponent at football. Not so good as a boxer though; as was proved when, during his army basic training was mistaken for his elder brother (a professional boxer who used boxed under Pat’s name) and entered in a competition… he said his opponent was a human gorilla and Pat’s only mistake was to get up after being knocked down the first time… unfortunately when he got home on sick leave battered and bruised with lumps all over his face he got another clatter from Hilda for fighting!

Pat had his own set of values and beliefs of what was really important – clothes and posh things didn’t really factor on his radar. When he got bleach stains down his cords (a regular occasion) he would ‘colour them in’ I once said “Pat you can’t wear those to go shopping – you’ve coloured brown cords in with blue pen! “Stick around kid you’re gonna see a miracle” was the response.

He thoroughly enjoyed music especially Opera and country music.

For such an unmaterialistic man though he did have some vices: Pilot Shirts, Books and Gadgets he loved gadgets! Yet for someone who loved gadgets he struggled with modern technology – especially the Sat Nav… We were travelling to Simon & Lizzies wedding & I had the sat nav on, after a while he said “How many screens do you think she has in front of her at any one time? Who? The Lass on the Sat Nav”….struggling for a suitable response I suggested quite a few? ….”Must av love, must av”… We stopped for petrol and as we set off again so did the Sat Nav… “Hey, we’ve got the same Lass!”
I could not pay tribute to Fr Pat without mentioning ‘Edale’ the annual retreat for young people and his behind the scenes work and support to the youth teams in Hallam.

Or Friday nights…… or his memory and gift of spotting the stranger at Mass and making them welcome….. or his total disregard for pomp and ceremony, or….his trust in others to do a good job… “Just get on with it.”

But it was God and his Church that was Pat’s first love. A Church of justice, peace and charity. He lived what he believed; that everyone is welcome and enough for all to share. I think it is safe to say he was a bit of a maverick! People have commented in the past that he was 30 years before his time and a true Lisbonian!

In recent years Pat delighted in being down in Devon. And he loved ‘his boys’ – his honorary Great Grandsons Joseph and George… and his Cod Roe and chips on the first night. He said his relationship with the boys had taken him back to when he would push ‘Young Pat’ in his pram as a baby – “I was as proud as punch Jude”.

During his final few weeks, before settling down to sleep Pat would ask to see the photos and short videos which Kate regularly sent up of ‘The boys’. On that Thursday morning, about 9am he was looking pensive, I asked “Penny for em”? He smiled and in a faraway voice said “Just thinking about George and Joseph – my boys”

You were never in any doubt as to when Pat was happy – it radiated from his eyes - even during these past few months when he was so poorly, frail and vulnerable, he could still summon a smile… and a twinkle for the ladies!

They say ‘it takes a wise man toplay the fool – and Pat was no fool - He could spot a fraud at 20 paces and had no concerns about challenging them and their motives, but when met with sincerity – he responded in kind.

We were at the Nat J&P conference for their 30th anniversary – Fr Pat was in the audience in his wheelchair. Anne Peacy, the Chair, was giving her opening address when she unexpectedly said “I am especially pleased to say that with us today is a man without whom we would not be here - 30 years ago I approached my Parish Priest about doing something for J&P, he immediately offered his full backing and support, and a place to meet… He’s sitting over there: Fr Pat Murphy!” The place erupted with applause… Fr Pat pretended to be someone else… but secretly was thrilled – in fact that is the only good story about himself I have ever heard him relate!

There is so much more I could say, so many more happy, moving and special memories as am sure so do you….but for now am just going to say – Thank you Pat – for the privilege of being able to share a part of your journey, and for the privilege of being able to call you “My True Friend”. Thank you…. you really did make a difference!

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