Being born a Kerryman, in my opinion, is the greatest gift that God can bestow on any man. When you belong to Kerry, you know you have a head start on the other fellow.”
The words of the late, great, John B Keane. A Kerryman through-and-through.
Those of you who have been in the company of the Kingdom’s sons and daughters will know that they are a spectacularly wonderful and colourful people. A rare breed, as John B alluded to.
Recently this writer happened upon another out-and-out Kerryman. Walking down the road in Dingle, I couldn’t help but be drawn into Paul Geaney’s Pub. Music floated out onto the street and the craic was 90 inside.
Bryan Murphy turned out to be the musician responsible, and did he put on some show. It turns out Bryan is from a farm not far from John B’s country, Causeway.
As well as playing music and singing, he’s a seanchaí. He wears his Kerry accent proudly and pretty much everything about him permeates Kerry.
#Causeway man Bryan Murphy Entertainer finishing off this evenings milking in song. So enjoyable milking in the @dairymaster rotary he has the time and energy to sing ?? Taking bookings for both milking and entertainment ?? ???? pic.twitter.com/DU3QfzReID— Salesian Agricultural College (@SalesianAg) June 29, 2021
He’s also a born showman. As we take the pictures for this article in and around Ballybunion’s beaches in north Kerry, Bryan whips around at one point, holding his accordion, and gives an impromptu concert to a couple from Wicklow who are on their holidays and sitting on a nearby bench.
There’s music on both sides of Bryan’s family, particularly his father’s. There are writers also in his mother’s family.
From a young age Bryan was interested in storytelling and got involved in Listowel Writers’ Week, encouraged by his parents and a school teacher.
“I was into storytelling. I was out with my hat and my stick. I’d be there telling stories and telling yarns. I entered Writers’ Week when I was six.
It’s kind of from there really I got the confidence for stage work and to be out in front of people. I would always say I’m shy. I suppose I’m not that shy either when it comes down to it,” Bryan muses with a laugh.
“I met a lot of people through Writers’ Week and I just discovered from that young age, there’s nothing better than seeing people enjoying themselves.
Be it singing, laughing, dancing - anything. Just to see them enjoying themselves.”
Introduction to music
On the music side of things, Bryan started playing the tin whistle in school, but even then he had his sights set on bigger instruments. He wanted to play the accordion and so his uncle gave him his.
“I had the chance then to go to a man by the name of Richard Casey in Causeway who started me off on the accordion, ‘Press five, draw three.’ He was brilliant,” Bryan says.
“I remember my father bought a Giustozzi accordion in Kenmare for €1,150. He sold a Limousin heifer the same year in Castleisland Mart and that’s what bought that accordion, I’ve no doubt.
“I remember coming home to bed and getting up in the middle of the night again to come down and play it again. It was such a big deal for me to get this more professional accordion.
From there then, I learned to play and sing at once. I taught myself how to do it together to match everything up.”
Milking and music
At home, Bryan’s family are dairying and also have a herd of pedigree Herefords. His father and brother are at home fulltime.
Bryan is also big into farming. He says he always sang in the parlour while milking and after milking. The acoustics are great and you can give it your all in there, he explains.
After school Bryan went to Salesian Agricultural College in Pallaskenry, Co Limerick. He went on to work for a dairy farmer local to him and on the farm at the ag college in Pallaskenry.
Pre-COVID he was working on the farm and getting his music gigs up and running at the same time.
“Just before COVID I was working on an album. I bought an estate car. I’ll load the gear into the back of this, I thought. Next thing, curtains came down. And they didn’t rise for a long time. But it’s great that the curtains are up now again.”
Bryan’s first proper gig was before COVID and came about almost by chance.
“I had done a few weddings and other events… but I wouldn’t even have called them gigs, I was asked to do it,”
Bryan explains. “I remember there was a Fleadh Ciarraí on in Tralee and the Ashe Hotel in Tralee gave me the opportunity for a weekly slot all through the summer after seeing me playing in a pub at the Fleadh.”
Last August Bryan decided to pursue music fulltime. He was working in Pallaskenry, enjoying the new rotary parlour, but got the feeling that it was now or never on the music front.
“I discovered that if I don’t pursue music now fulltime, I never will. So I left last August. I always wanted to do music, because as I said, I love entertaining people. There’s no better feeling. I feel I’m myself when I’m doing it, when I’m on stage. That’s where I want to be.”
That mindset of “just dive in” continued with Bryan. And in the same vein of trying new things, he decided to enter the Westmeath Bachelor Festival, which ran up to the early 90s and was revived and reimagined in 2022.
He was crowned Westmeath Bachelor 2022 by judges Louis Walsh, Doireann Garrihy, Nathan Carter and Anne Doyle.
In the past year Brian has gotten gigs in some well-known places. He plays five nights a week. As mentioned, he has a weekly slot in Geaney’s in Dingle, as well as two weekly slots in the famous JM Reidy’s in Killarney.
In between he could be playing at a wedding or event just about anywhere in the country. Recently he supported Derek Ryan, for example.
It’s only in the last few years that Bryan took up the guitar, and as well as singing while playing the accordion, it’s become an integral part of his set.
On his pub set, it’s very lively and definitely gets the crowd going, but in an ideal world, Bryan would like to do something a little different.
“You see what I do in the pub, I like all that,” says Bryan. “My style is a mix of everything from soft folk to belters that get the crowd going.
That’s pretty much what you do in the pub, in a concert situation you can do slower material, which I don’t do in the pub because everyone is in high spirits and we want to rattle it out, like.
“Ideally in a concert you’d like to do a few slower numbers. I suppose there are songs there too that I’d like to sing, bigger numbers that wouldn’t really go down in the pub because they don’t want hear those kinds of songs. I’m playing to the crowd, which you have to do.”
In the future, Bryan says his goal won’t change from that of the young boy who told stories in Listowel - entertaining people will always be the name of the game. He just wants to do it to bigger and bigger crowds.
“My plan is to keep entertaining people and hopefully to entertain bigger crowds of people.
Someone asked me, ‘Murphy, what is your main goal in life?’ My main goal in life is to be remembered when I’m dead and gone.
To be remembered for the music, the craic, entertaining people and enjoying life.”
Spoken like a true Kerryman.
“In belonging to Kerry you belong to the elements, to the spheres spinning in the Heavens. You belong to History and Language and Romance and Ancient Song. It is almost unbearable being a Kerryman and it is an awesome responsibility.”
– John B Keane