OBITUARY: Mary Murphy’s first jaunt into the world of packaging started with a freelance assignment for Packaging Week writing that year’s interpack feature. It seems ironic, that nearly 25 years later she would die during the same exhibition where news of her collapse made for a very subdued party being held for the International Packaging Press Organisation (IPPO). But she would not have approved of this, as she would have wanted her IPPO colleagues and packaging industry friends to celebrate her life, rather than mourn her passing.
Such was her influence on the packaging industry, that there can’t be many people who have not had some contact with her when she was at Packaging Week which then became Packaging Magazine before being sold to Packaging News. She was especially well connected with the movers and shakers of the industry – of which she was one – and she could count many CEOs of leading packaging companies among her friends.
She joined Packaging Week full-time in 1987 as features editor but quickly rose to editor the next year. At this time, it is fair to say that the magazine had not had the impact the publishers must have been wanting for a weekly magazine competing against two monthlies but this all changed when she took charge. Her journalistic skills acquired in Fleet Street, her no-nonsense approach, her inherent fairness and professional integrity took the magazine to new heights that made life on the established magazines much tougher. And in truth, her work and her passionate style made for a much stronger UK packaging press as a whole.
She was sometimes known as ‘Scary Mary’ as she certainly didn’t suffer fools gladly and would tell you in no uncertain terms if she felt you were wasting her time. But this only added to her reputation, which she played perfectly to ensure her magazine was the best it could be.
Managing editor and publisher roles for the Packaging Magazine Group followed where she was responsible for the introduction of the Packaging Industry Awards, www.dotpackaging.com, the newsletters Packaging Business, Packaging Innovation and Packaging Environment as well as a series of industry reports.
In 2002, Mary formed her own company MAJIC with her partner Audrey and has worked as an independent publisher, PR consultant and conference organiser for clients such as The Packaging Society, Reed Exhibitions, William Reed Business Media and the PPMA, for which she edited Machinery Update magazine.
Above all of these achievements, however, is the fact that she was a true friend to many people throughout her career and she delighted in other people’s success along the way. She was also bloody good fun. She loved a drink; she loved a fag and she was a good laugh. If you were ever lucky enough to have a night out with Mary, you could guarantee it would never be boring.
She will be truly missed by her family and friends, but also by the packaging industry for which she was an unlikely but extremely effective champion.
Many people wished to pay tribute to Mary in this obituary and a selection is included here:
Ragnvald Johansen – IPPO colleague
It makes me sad to hear that our dear Mary has passed away. For some time in the 90-ies I had the pleasure of doing some work for her magazine in my position as international packaging correspondent, and every now and then we met at exhibitions and conferences. I shall never forget her warm eyes, her big smile, her witty tounge, her enjoyment over a glass of beer – we really had good laughs so many times. I think we will all miss her very much.
Ron Marsh, CEO RPC Group
“Mary Murphy was an excellent journalist, knowledgeable and committed, a great promoter of and believer in the packaging industry, and much respected throughout. I will always be grateful for the support she gave to RPC over the years.”
John Durston, director Linpac Senior Holdings
“Mary was a staunch supporter of the UK packaging industry. She made it her business to network with senior executives, who responded openly to her, knowing that she would report with fairness and discretion. Mary and Ron Pigeon were a legendary team, who did a great deal to raise the profile and status of the industry. We have lost a great friend and advocate.”
Richard Brewster, former CEO David S Smith Group
“I knew Mary when both of us where at the top of our game. Mary was the editor of the most influential trade publication in Packaging and I had the honour of heading up David S Smith, a packaging company that made lots of news by growing fast.
Mary was an immensely professional person who had an integrity that journalists are not always confident of delivering. But what I came to value most about Mary was that whilst she would not let her professionalism be compromised she still had a big heart and valued hugely the relationships she built up within the industry. It was a very successful formula as Mary could ask favours of a CEO and obtain help without ever abusing the favours given. Mary was often given stories that other journalists would dream about because CEOs knew they could trust Mary and confidentiality was honoured and an embargo was an embargo.
Mary achieved a public profile for the UK packaging industry that nobody has been able to do since. In November 1989 she held the Packaging Europe Conference with the theme Package Strategies for the 1990s when CEOs of large international companies willingly agreed to speak for the Industry and for Mary. We have lost a person who by her own excellence was able to leave a lasting legacy to our Packaging Industry. Long may her standards be remembered.”
Terry Robins, formerly of Sainsbury’s and now head of Robins Packaging Consultants
“It is with great sadness that we all received the news that Mary Murphy has passed on. I knew Mary for many, many years as both a work colleague and friend. She was fun, down to earth, had an encyclopaedic knowledge of packaging, charismatic and great to be with. Mary and I first met when I worked for Sainsbury’s and she was editor of Packaging Week what seems like a million years ago. We also worked together for several years with the Institute of Packaging StarPack Awards, where Mary could always be guaranteed to bring all the judges back onto the straight and narrow after we became over excited over some exotic bottle or the like. Her writing in the press was truthful without the drama or lack of knowledge that many other writers suffer from.
Mary was especially good with helping friends, as she did by gently talking and guiding my wife through cancer treatment. Mary had had her problems with ill health and she knew how to help others.
We will all miss Mary a great deal, all of the packaging industry that knew her, but more by her friends.”
Andrew Manly, MAJIC colleague and IPPO treasurer
“Mary became one of the major figures in British packaging and was known and respected all over the world. As a journalist, she was well informed, honest and tenacious. Her opinion mattered and counted. As a friend, she was generous, warm, funny and, yes, honest. Working with her was a privilege. I have lost a dear friend and colleague. Our industry has lost a great journalist and, yes, friend.”
Pauline Covell, former editor of Packaging Review in the UK and IPPO colleague
“I respected Mary more than any other packaging journalist worldwide. On the rare occasions I beat her to a story it was probably just due to good luck on my part! She was the friendliest of rivals always working hard and playing hard; great company on trips we shared. She even organised a great retirement surprise party for me. The packaging press worldwide mourns her and misses her dearly.”
Gill Loubser, editor Packaging Magazine in South Africa and IPPO colleague
“Mary will be sadly missed by all who knew her, on both a personal and a professional level. She will be especially missed by her many friends in the world of packaging journalism. Always bringing a sense of fun and laughter to any meeting of IPPO members, Mary was also thoroughly professional, as well as being a first-class writer and journalist. My heartfelt sympathy goes to Mary’s family and especially to Audrey at this time of tragic loss.”
Graham Earl, Reed Exhibitions in the UK
“I knew Mary for over 20 years, first when I worked with her at Benn Publications and then whilst I have been involved in UK packaging events. A very good friend and great character will be missed by all.”
Jane Bickerstaff, director INCPEN – The Industry Council for Packaging & the Environment, UK
“Mary was a good friend to INCPEN, supported our work explaining the positive contribution that packaging makes and, like the professional journalist she was, always ready to challenge us to show her evidence for our claims. Mary will be sadly missed by the UK and international packaging world.”
Julian Carroll, Managing Director, Europen (The European Organisation for Packaging and the Environment), Belgium
“Mary was the Doyen of the packaging press. Her knowledge and ceaselessly enquiring mind brought packaging industry professionals a down to earth perspective of their business, always in a constructive and challenging way.
Having met Mary when I first got into packaging in 1987 I quickly realised that here was a person who knew more about packaging than a lot of people in the industry.
My last contact with her was an interview just a few weeks ago for an article she was preparing for interpack. Afterwards she wrote to me to say that sadly she would not be attending interpack this year.
Everyone missed her at the IPPO party at Düsseldorf on 15th May. She will be missed by us all. There will never be another Mary.”
Rob Carter, formerly of Mobil Plastics and AET Films
“I am quite devastated and deeply saddened at this unexpected news. Mary was such a wonderful friend. She was always so kind and tremendously supportive, having taken a personal interest in my career throughout the Mobil and AET years. Mary was always behind the scenes at promotional and awards events in which I figured, helping me provide input and guidance to the management of those US companies when necessary.
I shall miss her, her voice, and most of all her ebullient and effervescent “Carpe Diem” personality.
Mary was an absolute “Original”, and the world is very much poorer as a result of her passing.”