An Appreciation of Dr Muriel McCarthy (1931-2021)

The death took place, on July 28 2021, of Dr Muriel McCarthy former Keeper of Marsh’s Library and Honorary Lay Canon of St Patrick’s Cathedral Armagh. Her funeral took place in the Carmelite Church, Whitfriar’s Street on Tuesday August 3. The service was attended by Archbishop Michael Jackson, chair of the Governors and Guardians of Marsh’s Library. He has written an appreciation below.

Yesterday (Tuesday August 3 2021) I had the privilege of attending the Funeral Service of Dr Muriel McCarthy, Keeper of Marsh’s Library and Honorary Lay Canon of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh.

Dr Muriel McCarthy (left) and Ann Simmons in 2011 in Marsh’s Library.

It was a warmhearted occasion that showed how it is possible, in the midst of continuing Restrictions resulting from the on-going prevalence of COVID-19, that happiness and fulfilment in the maelstrom of tragedy and loss can still be expressed and enjoyed, not only by all present but by all joining us nationally and internationally.

The service took place in The Carmelite Church, in Whitefriars Street, Dublin 2. It is the church in which Muriel and her husband Charles, who sadly pre–deceased her and whose loss she felt profoundly every day, worshipped since the early 1980s. This gave a tangible sense of personal and domestic intimacy to yesterday’s service.

Dr Muriel McCarthy was described by her son Justin, speaking on behalf of the family, as a devoted mother to her children and as an inspiring grandmother to her grandchildren. Justin spoke for all family members in saying this. Dr Muriel McCarthy was described by Professor Ruth Whelan as faithful, feisty and fun. She was also described by the latter as a national treasure. Tribute was rightly paid to Ann Simmons who worked with her as a colleague and friend over many years and supported her in friendship in recent years in a way that is highly valued by all members of the McCarthy family.

Every generation brings what it brings to the momentum of change in the society of which it is part. Muriel did this with flair and faithfulness in her time as Keeper of Marsh’s Library and was honoured for this by state and church and university.

The celebrant chose as The Gospel St Luke 4.16–21. This is the passage of Holy Scripture in which Jesus comes to the synagogue in Nazareth, reads and interprets a Scripture which he humbly states is fulfilled in the hearing of the listeners and for which he is ultimately crucified. The celebrant’s point was that this Scriptural passage is about reading and interpreting Scripture in each and every generation and that the emphasis on reading was entirely appropriate to Muriel and her life’s work and passion.


Dublin & Glendalough.


Dr McCarthy died peacefully surrounded by her loving family in the extraordinary care of all the Nurses and Carers of Newtown Park House Nursing Home. She was predeceased by her loving husband Charles, her twin Mairéad and brothers Liam and Seán. She will be deeply missed by her daughters, Paula, (Panczenko), Martina (Kealy) and her son Justin, sons-in-law Brian and Russell and daughter-in-law Justina, her loving grandchildren Caroline, Susan, Richard, Julianne, Charlie and Max, and her best friend Ann Simmons and brother–in–law Nicholas (Furlong), nieces, nephews, relatives and friends.

The service is available to watch at

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