As many of you will know, our dear friend and colleague Professor Liam Murray, Centre for Public Health, passed away peacefully, surrounded by his loving family early on the morning of Friday 12th January 2018 following a brave battle with his final illness. The huge attendance at his funeral two days later in Loughbrickland was testament to how many people thought so highly of Liam. At the request of Liam’s wife Mary Lou, I delivered the eulogy and paid tribute to Liam on behalf of everyone who knew him. Many adjectives describe how Liam’s character stood out from the crowd, such as noble, humble, inspiring, collegial, fair-minded, generous, scholarly, respectful, approachable, dependable – a gentle man and a real gentleman.
I recall Liam’s outstanding career, from the early days when we first worked together at the Northern Health Board’s Public Health Department in Ballymena, until latterly when Liam’s brilliance as an academic was recognised internationally. Over those years people would readily acknowledge that Liam was a man who knew how to get things done, someone who took his job, but not himself, seriously. Liam moved to Bristol in 1994 to take up a post as a Lecturer/Registrar in Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Bristol, returning to Northern Ireland in January 1997 as a Senior Registrar in Public Health at the Western Health Board, joining QUB later that year as a Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology and Public Health. By then his real leadership qualities were in plain sight, for it was no time at all before other academics threw their lot in with him, sensing the no-limits potential of any team led by Liam.
His influence was transformative, for so many of those he nurtured are now leading their own groups and have taken root in places like the National Institute of Health or in leadership positions in their home countries. In the drive for globalisation he notched up thousands of air miles travelling to the US or latterly to destinations like Vietnam and Malaysia. However, despite these long and time consuming trips, Liam would never contemplate travelling business class, but everyone knew he deserved First Class. Anyone reflecting on it might recognise Liam in the character played by Jimmy Stewart from the movie ‘It’s a wonderful life’ - a man who couldn’t or wouldn’t acknowledge the quietly transformative effect that he was having on those around him. Our heartfelt condolences go to Mary Lou and their daughters Lois and Evelyn, and all the Murray family.
Thank you Liam for sharing a wonderful life with us and setting an example to us all.