Cillian Murphy’s primary school celebrates Cork actor’s Oscar win

Students at St Anthony’s National School in Ballinlough shared in excitement of local man’s achievement

Staff at St Anthony’s National School in Ballinlough in Cork were full of pride today after former pupil, Cillian Murphy, became the first Irish born man to win in the Best Actor category at the Academy Awards.

Teachers in the school managed to pick up a few balloons bearing “Cillian” this morning. The younger pupils were hopping up and down in excitement when a camera crew from RTÉ popped in to film their Oscars celebrations.

Principal Sean Lyons said the boys were giddy with happiness coming through the doors of the school on Monday morning.

“The excitement when the boys came through the door this morning. Boys in Juniors and Seniors were coming up to me and saying ‘Mr Lyons did you hear the news? Cillian won an Oscar’.”


The 47-year-old, whose parents Mary and Brendan, live in Ballintemple in the city, attended the school from 1982 to 1988.

The actor, who is best known to the boys for his role in the drama Peaky Blinders, previously filled out a questionnaire for current pupils at the school.

Mr Murphy told the youngsters that was living in Dublin with his parents for a period before they moved back to his native Cork. His biggest challenge in his early years at St Anthony’s involved “trying to understand the Cork accent”.

The father of two said he “wasn’t very good at maths” as a youngster and that although both his parents were teachers and his grandfather a headmaster he had never wanted to follow in their footsteps.

“I knew from an early age what a hard profession it is, and how much dedication you need. I don’t think I ever had the vocation.”

He said that he didn’t attend drama classes or have any formal training in acting as a younger man.

“In fact I didn’t have any interest in acting until I was 19. I was much more interested in music and wanted to become a musician during my youth.

Then I discovered theatre when I left school after seeing after seeing a production of A Clockwork Orange by Cork theatre company, Corcadorca. I was hooked from then on in.”

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Micheál Martin, who also lives in Ballinlough, was among those who paid tribute to Mr Murphy following his Oscar win for his role as theoretical physicist, J Robert Oppenheimer, in the film Oppenheimer.

He said that Ireland, as a nation, “rejoices on this richly-deserved Oscar award for Cillian”.

“This is so well deserved. It was a truly outstanding performance by Cillian in Oppenheimer which is a truly outstanding film. It will stand the test of time. Leeside and Cork is absolutely delighted for him and his wonderful family.”

Mr Martin visited St Anthony’s School last Friday to cast his ballot in the recent referendums. At the time he paused to examine the questionnaire filled out by Cillian Murphy for the boys of the school.

He spoke to the principal and said that an Oscar win would be a “a great win for St Anthony’s”.

“When I was minister for education I worked with Cillian’s father, Breandan Ó’Murchu who was a school inspector. At that time school inspectors would create the draft speeches for the ministers for education when you went to schools around the country. I had a very close friendship with the inspectorate in Cork, among which Breandan was one.

I met [Breandan] recently. It is fabulous for the family. They are a very modest family. It was an extraordinary performance.

When you look back through [Cillian’s] career, coming up with Corcadorca, its testimony to the importance of supporting the arts at the early stages and the Cork Corporation and others, who gave Corcadorca support in the early days, it shows what talent can emerge.”

The Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Kieran McCarthy said that Cillian was “very humble in his success”.

All of Cork is very proud of Cillian, and I look forward to honouring him in City Hall in the not so distant future.

He is a true treasure of the arts who remains grounded and he is a huge inspiration for others from Cork and Ireland involved in the local, national and international cinema scene.”

Meanwhile, the principal of the secondary school attended by Mr Murphy said the Oscar win for best actor was an enormously proud moment not only for his Alma Mater but for Cork City.

David Barry of Presentation Brothers College (PBC) said that he was so “pleased and proud” of the actor.

“He is a very talented actor and he has worked so very hard on his craft.

“We are all so delighted for him and for his family on his success. The school is so, so proud of him.”

PBC plans to extend an invitation to the Ballintemple native to visit his former school at his earliest convenience.

A portrait of Mr Murphy in his role as Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders is on display in the school.

Mr Barry said that none of the teachers in the school were working on site when Mr Murphy was a student in the 1990s.

“The staff have moved on since then. But definitely [an invite to visit PBC will be issued]. Whether he will find a gap in his busy schedule to come to the school – but we certainly will be extending an invitation to Cillian to come and visit the pupils here. We would be delighted if he could make the time.”

Meanwhile, Mr Murphy was taught English in PBC by poet William Wall, who said that he was delighted at the big win overnight.

“I just can’t believe it. I’m so happy and thrilled. It’s well deserved and has been a while coming. But you know he’s always been a brilliant actor, a master of his trade or his art really, and now he’s got the final seal of authority. He knows what he is now, and the world is his oyster.”

Mr Wall previously told the Neil Prendeville show, on Cork’s Red FM, that Mr Murphy was a really good student of English.

“He was just one of those kids who got poetry, got Shakespeare and got novels. It wasn’t hard to teach him. I could also see from the fact that he was a performer – he had the band and they played in the school a couple of times.

You could see that he was a natural for performance so it wasn’t hard to encourage him to go in to the arts.”

He said that he recently gave a talk about his work in a secondary school in Italy and at the end of the session he was asked if he had really taught Cillian Murphy.

“When I said it was [true] a group of people almost passed out at the thought they were in the presence of somebody who was in the presence of Cillian Murphy.”

“In school he balanced an anti establishment attitude with a deep interest in culture and the arts. He was sort of a leader in his class in that regard as well. A sort of edgy, not quite an awkward customer but the customer who would come up with the awkward questions.

“His band, The Sons of Mr Green Genes, were actually fantastic. They gave my wife who was a maths teacher in the school a demo tape which she had for several years. Then one day she came back to play the demo tape and one of our sons had taped over the whole thing with summer music for himself. So that was that tape gone.”

Mr Wall said he knew that Cillian would end up in the creative world.

“He had to you know. When he went in to law in college I was kind of surprised. Not surprised in that I knew he could be an excellent lawyer as well. I could see him being a performing barrister in the Four Courts in Dublin.

“I knew in a way that he would eventually [go in to the arts]. So when Disco Pigs came out I was blown away. I knew he had found his métier.

“He picks the scripts he wants to do. He is very careful about that and that is great. He is an actor’s actor.”