Matt Murphy grew up on a 2,000 acre estate on the outskirts of Cashel, Co Tipperary. World War II is fast approaching as he take his first intoxicating breath of high society living amid the incessant rounds of afternoon tea, hunting, fishing and shooting parties. A charmed life in many respects but behind the lavish setting is an illegitimate child, born into the servant’s gate lodge to a housekeeping mother and a father who has never been acknowledged.
It’s rural Ireland in the 40’s and Matt is saved from adoption by his grandparents posing as his parents and believing his mother is his sister for many years to follow. Before long he too is put to work in the great house tending to housekeeping duties and dressing up in tuxedo and tailcoats when the role of butler presents itself. He is a gentleman of service, deeply loyal to his family and his place in this society.
In his early twenties Matt discovers a love for Dublin city and once again finds himself in domestic service to wealthy professional city folk while commuting regularly back home to Cashel to visit his mother. An opportunity comes up for him to join the P&T and already in his forties, this becomes his job for life. Here he makes some good friends, including Michael O’Sullivan, over twenty years his junior. Matt and Michael form a strong bond until Matt retires and they lose contact for many years.
Approaching his 80’s and in failing health, Matt is alone in the world with his many keepsakes and personal items gathered around him in his modest home in Stoneybatter. Circumstances bring him and Michael back into contact and a reciprocal arrangement develops between them. Matt is now the one being cared for and waited upon although he is unable to repay Michael for his kindness.
Matt promises his house to Michael on his death for all his help and companionship but there is a catch, inheritance tax. A casual remark from a friend is followed by a course of action which puts their lives in a spin for many months. Matt proposes to Michael which he duly accepts. Their story is shared across national and International media: Joe Duffy, Claire Byrne and Sky News give them air time and they do make it to the alter but it is far from the happy ever after. Doctors, lawyers, certificates of compos mentis and validation from government officials become their everyday
priority as this open admission of a same sex marriage for inheritance reasons has stirred the conscience of people from all persuasions.
Apart from the main themes of love, trust, friendship and inheritance this story reverberates beyond this specific narrative with wider implications for an ageing population, care giving and a deeper meaning to the vow until death do us part.