Tributes have been paid to the hugely popular RTÉ broadcaster Colm Murray has died following a three-year battle with Motor Neurone Disease.
Colm was until recently the Irish World’s immensely valued racing columnist – he was the voice of racing in Ireland – and he was the heart of the paper’s annual Cheltenham coverage.
But he was also, for many years, the real star of the paper’s Irish World Awards which he MCd with his own inimitable style and sense of fun.
Irish World owner and publisher Paddy Cowan, a long-time friend of Colm’s, said it was the news he had personally been”dreading to hear” and was profoundly saddened at the death of such a lovely man and wonderful colleague.
“He was a gentleman, he was funny and witty and there was nothing about horse racing he didn’t know but he was not a show-off despite being the very best at what he did,” said Mr. Cowan.
Colm is survived by his wife, Anne, daughters Kate and Patricia and his sister, Mary.
His sister Cathy, who also worked at RTE, passed away earlier this year. Colm’s degenerative illness had worsened so much he had been unable to attend his beloved sister’s funeral so RTE colleagues relayed the funeral to his home.
Colm came from Moate, in Westmeath and before RTÉ was a teacher having graduated from University College Galway in 1972 with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in French, English and History followed by teacher qualifications at Maynooth. He taught at secondary schools in Athlone and Tullamore and in 1975 moved to Dublin to teach French, English and History at Ballymun Comprehensive School.
In October 1978 he joined RTÉ Radio as a continuity announcer and presented Hospitals’ Requests before becoming newsreader in 1983, joining Six One New in 1988 and the start of his illustrious career as one of the country’s leading sports journalists and broadcasters covering the Cheltenham Festival and the Sydney, Athens and Beijing Olympics and Paralympics.
Aside from his extensive coverage of horseracing his own personal favourite story was covering Ireland’s 1990 World Cup campaign in Italy.
Colm was honoured by Horse Racing Ireland in 2010 for “his engaging and eloquent reports, illuminating the sport in a constantly positive and entertaining manner”.
When diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease two weeks after his 2010 Cheltenham coverage he embarked on an RTÉ documentary to highlight MND and assist in developing treatment for those diagnosed.
More than 600,000 people watched the broadcast and such was its impact that he received a People of the Year award in September 2012 acknowledging his efforts to help improve awareness of the condition.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny led the tributes and said: “I had the pleasure of being in Colm’s company recently and could see he was a proud Westmeath man who brought out the best in those around him with his affability and gift for storytelling.
“I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to his wife, Ann, and daughters, Patricia and Kate, and sister, Mary.
“He is also a huge loss to all in RTÉ and my thoughts are with all who had the pleasure of knowing Colm during his lifetime.”
RTÉ Director General Noel Curran said colleagues were deeply saddened by his death and that he would be rightly remembered by the horse racing community for his enthusiasm and knowledge.
“The courage that Colm has shown over these past couple of years has been truly extraordinary. The news is all the more poignant given the recent sudden passing of his sister Cathy, who also worked in our newsroom. For all who worked with him in RTÉ, he will be remembered as a wonderful colleague and friend.”
RTÉ Head of Sport Ryle Nugent said: “He had an infectious laugh, a real sense of fun and a little mischief that has been, and will always be, missed in this office. His commitment and love for his work was there for all to see and he will be long remembered for his kindness, decency and caring of those with whom he came into contact.”
Trainer Ted Walsh said: “He loved to have a bet, loved to do the auld jackpot. He wasn’t a big compulsive gambler, but he loved a bet and loved going racing. He was just a joy to be with. He wasn’t one of those fellas who when you went into a room you wanted to buzz away and sit somewhere else. You wanted to sit alongside him and get the stories. He was enthusiastic. He was just one of nature’s gentlemen.”