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coat of arms of the great sept of Murphy of Wexford.
coat of arms of Murphy of Muskerry (Cork / Kerry). This sept is said
to be a branch of the Wexford sept, descended from Felim, a younger
son of Eanna Cinsealach, progenitor of the Kinsella sept.
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is easily the commonest surname in Ireland: birth registration
statistics indicate that of, a population of 4 millions, no less than
approximately 55,000 are Murphys. The name, with which the prefix O
(or more rarely Mac) is never used nowadays, may be either O
Murchadha or Mac Murchadha in Irish and is derived from and old Irish
word for "sea warrior". It arose independently in several
parts of Ireland: there are, for example, indigenous septs so called
in Counties Tyrone and Sligo, both these are unimportant in
comparison with the great Murphy clan of Leinster. This was centred
in Co. Wexford. The Chief of the Name is O'Morchoe, an otherwise
obsolete form in English. Birth statistics indicate that Murphy is
the commonest name in Co. Wexford and it also has first place in Co.
Carlow. The Wexford Murphys were directly descended from the kings of
Leinster. In the thirteenth century a descendant, Dermot MacMurrough,
the warring King of Leinster, opened the floodgates to the
Anglo-Normans. The Murphys descend from Dermot's brother Murrough.
They took their surname from Murchadh or Murrough, grandfather of
Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster, and thus share their origin not
only with the MacMurroughs but also with the Kinsellas, the Kavanaghs
and the MacDavy Mores.
territory lay in the barony of Ballaghkeen in Wexford, and was
formerly known as Hy Felimy, from Felim, one of the sons of Eanna
Cinsealaigh, the semi-legendary, fourth-century ruler of Leinster.
Their chief seats in this area were at Morriscastle ('O Murchu's
Castle'), Toberlamina, Oulart and Oularteigh. The last chief of the
name to be elected by the old Gaelic method of tanistry was Murtagh,
who in 1461 was granted the right to use English law, thus entitling
him to pass on his possessions to his direct descendants. The
arrangement lasted only until the late sixteenth century, when Donal
Mor O'Morchoe (as the name was then anglicised) was overthrown, and
virtually all his territory confiscated; most of his followers were
scattered and settled in the surrounding counties, in Kilkenny and
Carlow particularly. One branch, however, based at Oularteigh, did
manage to retain their lands, and their succession continues unbroken
down to the present.
branch of the Murphy family, originally from County Wexford, moved to
County Tipperary when their lands were confiscated by Cromwell. A
member of the family who saved the life of one of William III's
entourage was granted a lease of lands at Ballymore, Cashel, County
Tipperary, in 1689. Succeeding generations lived there until it was
sold in 1848.
surname, however, is even more numerous today in Munster than in
Leinster, particularly in Counties Cork and Kerry. This Munster sept,
which is associated particularly with the barony of Muskerry, Co.
Cork, is said to be a branch of the
Kinsella section of the Wexford clan, descended
from Felim, a younger son of Eanna Cinsealach.
Ulster sept of Murphy is still numerous but is now more common in the
adjacent county of Armagh, where in fact it is first in the
statistical list. A chief named Flaherty O'Murphy is recorded in the
Annals of Tir Boghainne, i.e. the modem barony of Banagh in Co.
Donegal, so that it will be seen that the Murphys were and are
widespread in Ulster also.
from Mac Murchadha ('son of Murchadh'), is exclusive to Ulster,
where the family were part of the Cineal Eoghain, the tribal grouping
claiming descent from Eoghan, himself a son of the fifth century
founder of the Ui Neill dynasty, Niall of the Nine Hostages, who was
reputedly responsible for the kidnapping of St Patrick to Ireland.
These Ulster Murphys (or MacMuphys) were originally based in present
day Co. Tyrone, in the area known as Muintir Birn, but were driven
out by the O'Neills and settled in south Armagh, where they were
subjects of the O'Neills of the Fews. In Ulster today, Murphy remains
most numerous in Co. Armagh, though it is also to be found in great
numbers in Fermanagh and Monaghan. Livingstone states that the
Murphys of Fermanagh are in Gaelic Mac Murchu, descendants of
Murchadh, a brother of Donn Mor Maguire. These MacMurphys were
erenaghs of the church lands of Farnamullan and of Tullynagaorthainn,
and anglicised their name to both Murphy and Morrow.
name of the Clan Donald sept of MacMurchie was made MacMurphy and
Murphy in Arran and so it is likely that some of the name in Ulster
will be of Scottish descent.
might be expected in the case of a name as numerous as Murphy the
references to prominent persons of the name in the Annals are
frequent throughout the centuries, both of the Leinster and the
Ulster septs, for the most part to chiefs and soldiers; but there are
others, for example, Domhnall Dall Ua Murchadha "chief sage of
Leinster" who died in 1127.
most Irish families a definite thread runs through the generations.
In the innumerable Murphys there is a whole skein to be unravelled.
Murphys figured largely in the lists of the Irish Brigades in Europe.
In the nineteenth century, for instance, there were Marshal le Baron
O Murphy, Commandant of the Legion d'Honneur; Colonel le Chevalier O
Murphy and l'Abbe Charles of the 3rd Regiment of Cuirassiers.
Murchadha na Raithineach ("na Raithineach" after the Cork
village of his birth), or John Murphy, born about 1700, was the last
recognised head of the Blarney bards. Before him there was Daithi O
Murchu, or David Murphy, the blind harpist who entertained Grace O
Malley, known as Granuaile the pirate queen.
Murphy (1727 - 1805) of Clonquin, County Roscommon, was educated in
France, as was customary for those who could afford it. Not liking
the commercial work offered him on his return to Ireland, he went to
London. Lack of money turned him to acting and he made his debut in
Covent Garden as Othello. This gave him an entree to London literary
life, and soon essays, verse, translations, periodicals and plays
were pouring from his pen. In 1761, with Garrick playing one of the
principal parts, his play, The Way to Keep Him, was a great success
at Drury Lane. It was produced in Dublin as recently as 1977. Arthur
Murphy wanted to study law but entrance to the Bar was forbidden to
actors. His influential friends, however, had this ban removed,
enabling him to qualify and to practise law. It was said that his
literary talent was more given to adaptation than to originality. All
his life he worked hard and lived well, but was never out of debt.
elder brother James had adopted their mother's name, French, and, as
James Murphy French (1725 - 59), he shared with Arthur the legal and
literary life of London.
Murphy (1740 - 1820) of Cork went to London to study engraving. In
time he became a master of the mezzotint and was commissioned to make
plates for the nobility and the family of George III.
of his allegiance to the United Irishmen, Denis Brownell Murphy was
forced to leave Dublin in 1798. Safe in London he made a name as a
miniaturist, even being appointed by royalty. His fame was surpassed
by his daughter, Anna Brownell James, who was one of the early art historians.
Cavanagh Murphy (1750 - 1814) of Cork began work as a bricklayer,
followed by study in a Dublin art school. He lived for a long while
in Spain and Portugal, becoming an eminent authority on Iberian
architecture. His advice was sought when London's House of Commons
was being extended.
Cork men have been successful sculptors. Thomas J. Murphy, born in
1881, son of John Murphy, also a sculptor, went to London where he
had a very successful career. Seamus Murphy (1907 - 75), born near
Mallow, County Cork, became a stone carver at 14 and later studied at
the Cork School of Art, where he won a scholarship to Paris. He
specialised in portrait heads and sculpted many leading Irishmen. He
was Professor of Sculpture at the Royal Hibernian Academy and his
book, Stone Mad, published in 1950, has been made into a play.
Murphys have had a remarkable number of ecclesiastics. In the
eighteenth century Edward Murphy was Archbishop of Dublin. John
Murphy (1772 - 1848), Bishop of Cork, was a scholar who collected the
largest private library in Ireland (the Murphys were given to book
collecting). He sold most of this in London, except for 120 Irish
manuscripts which he left to Maynooth College in County Kildare.
Murphy (1795 - 1858) from Navan, County Meath, went to Australia
where he became Bishop of Adelaide. Reverend Canon Jeremiah Murphy
(1840 - 1915) of Cork, who was ordained at Maynooth College, was an
Irish speaker, traveller and writer. When he died, his library, which
was sold in Cork, weighed fifteen tons.
most remarkable of the many ecclesiastics was John Murphy (1796 -
1883) of the Cork distilling family. His youth was spent chasing
rainbows, as midshipman, traveller in China and financier in London.
In North America his work with the Hudson Bay Company brought him
close to the Indians who made him an Indian Chief and named him
"Black Eagle of the North". During a severe illness he had
a vision and, as a result, went to the Beda College in Rome to study
for the priesthood. Back again in his native Cork, Father John Murphy
commissioned the fashionable architect Pugin, with generous
contributions from Murphy's distilleries, to design the church of St
Peter and St Paul of which he was made an Archdeacon.
brother Francis Stack Murphy (1807 - 60) was a lawyer, a Member of
Parliament for Cork and a scholar. He helped Francis Sylvester Mahony
with literary contributions. His first cousin, Jeremiah Daniel Murphy
(1806 - 24), a boy genius, mastered seven languages, wrote verse in
various languages and contributed to intellectual magazines, but died
revered Murphys are the patriot priests, Father John Murphy and
Father Michael Murphy. Father John (c. 1753 - 98) of Ferns, County
Wexford, was a leader in the rising of 1798. He had been educated in
Spain and was parish priest of Boolavogue. At first a loyalist, he
became outraged by the savagery of the army and led his people in
revolt. He was killed in action, as was his colleague, Father Michael.
Gracey Murphy (1808 - 96) of County Down, a Presbyterian minister,
compiled Latin and Hebrew grammars and many biblical and
philosophical studies. Reverend James E.P. Murphy of Cork (b. 1850),
a Protestant, translated the four gospels into Irish. Reverend Hugh
Davis Murphy (b. 1848), also of the Protestant faith, came from
County Antrim and was chaplain to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
most notable woman bearing the Murphy name was the famous courtesan
Marie Louise O Murphy (1737 - 1814), fifth daughter of an Irish
soldier who had taken up shoemaking in Rouen, France. After his
death, their mother brought the family to Paris where she traded in
old clothes while finding her daughters work as actresses or models.
Marie Louise posed for Boucher, a painter at court. He painted her so
attractively that she came to the notice of Louis XV, who soon
appointed her his mistress. Their child is supposed to have been
General de Beaufranchet. She married three times and was divorced by
her third husband, who was thirty years her junior. For a period
during the reign of terror, she suffered imprisonment because of her
Murphy (b. 1834) of County Down achieved physical notoriety as the
tallest man in Europe at eight feet and one inch. He was exhibited
internationally, but died at the early age of 28. His embalmed
remains were returned to County Down, to medical practitioners.
James (b. 1795) of Lota Park died in 1851, at Pisa during a tour of
Italy. The Neapolitan sailors refused to carry his coffin, fearing it
would bring them bad luck, so the resourceful Murphys had the body
shipped home from Naples inside an upright piano. He was buried in
this in County Cork, three months later.
Murphys of Cork have been as famed for their alcohol as for their
priests. In 1825, James Murphy of Ringmahon, Blackrock, County Cork,
a Justice of the Peace, founded with his brothers the prosperous firm
of James Murphy and Company, Distillers, while in 1854, James
Jeremiah Murphy of Bellevue, Passage West, County Cork, and his
brothers founded the firm of James J. Murphy, Brewers of Cork. In
1867, the James Murphy company merged with the Midleton and four
neighbouring distillers to form Cork Distillers Ltd. In 1966, in
another big merger, with Powers and Jamesons, they became Irish
Distillers Ltd., now the biggest whiskey distillers in Ireland, with
headquarters at Midleton, County Cork. The Murphy family is still
represented on the board.
family has been prominent, too, in the world of sport. Frank Murphy,
who won the Grand National riding Reynoldstown, was killed in the
Second World War. Flora Murphy (b. 1932) was an international tennis
champion. Patricia Ann (b. 1943) was a British ski champion.
Martin Murphy (1844 - 1921) of Bantry, County Cork, was one of
Ireland's first business tycoons. He established railways, tramways
and large department stores in Ireland, Britain and Africa. He
founded the Irish Independent Group of newspapers. He was a Member of
Parliament, but refused a knighthood offered him by Edward VII during
his visit to Ireland in 1907. In the 1913 general strike in Dublin he
led the employers, earning the obloquy of the workers, but he was not
without philanthropic concern for the poor, of which there were many
Murphy (b. 1935) of County Galway trained as a teacher, and is one of
Ireland's leading playwrights. He was a recent director of Dublin's
national theatre, The Abbey, and his play, The Gigli Concert, made a
Murphys are well represented in Australia, especially in law and
medicine. Francis Murphy (1809 - 91) of Cork went to Sydney as a
colonial surgeon. He settled there and took up farming and politics.
He was knighted in 1860.
United States of America there are probably more Murphys than in
Ireland. Henry Cruse Murphy (1810 - 82) was the grandson of an Irish
doctor who had emigrated to the New World. He practised law in
Brooklyn and was its mayor for many years. He served in the state
senate, and besides being a progressive promoter of such developments
as railways and the Brooklyn Bridge, he was also a scholar and
collected a fine library.
Murphy (1812 - 80) of Omagh, County Tyrone, was brought to the United
States as a child. He too had that remarkable feeling for books
typical of so many of the Murphys, and became a publisher. Murphy and
Company specialised in publishing theological books at their
headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland. (The original Baltimore is in
Benjamin Murphy (1857 - 1916) was of Irish parentage. He became one
of the leading professors of surgery in Chicago, and invented the
famous Murphy Button which simplified abdominal operations.
a different Murphy sept who were to advance the progress of
temperance reform. Francis Murphy (1836 - 1907) of County Wexford
arrived penniless in New York at the age of 16. For many years he led
a dissipated life until a term in prison brought him into contact
with a reformer, which led to his taking a pledge of total
abstinence. He developed into a dynamic preacher in the cause of
temperance, drawing thousands to his meetings and, it is said,
causing the closure of 500 saloons in Allegheny and the adjoining
counties. He carried his reform campaign to Canada, Australia and
Hall, the New York headquarters of the Democratic Party, reached its
peak under the leadership of Charles Francis Murphy (1858 - 1924).
The son of poor Irish immigrants, he spent his childhood in East
Side, New York. A man who could handle men, he worked his way up from
the dockyards to become a successful politician and master of
diplomacy. He made his fortune from real estate, and was held in
esteem because of his remarkable aloofness from the various
corrupting influences then prevalent.
father of Frank Murphy had emigrated to America and was jailed for
his part in the Fenian attack on Canada. In 1933, Frank Murphy, who
had studied law in Dublin and London, was Governor General of the
Philippines, in 1936 he was Governor of his native Michigan, and in
1939 he was US Attorney-General. He died in 1949.
Murphy, who was born in Texas in 1924, earned more decorations than
any other US soldier in the Second World War. Afterwards he became a
star in films including Beyond Glory and To Hell and Back. He died in
a plane crash in 1971.
Charles Murphy, who was born in Massachusetts of Irish parents,
coached the US Olympic teams in the 1900s, and introduced the
crouching start for athletes which is now used by sprinters everywhere.
publicans, politicians and police are among Ireland's contributions
to the New World. Two of New York's most able police commissioners
have been Murphys. Thomas Murphy, a police commissioner of New York
City in 1951, was afterwards a federal judge, and prosecutor at the
Hiss trials. Michael J. Murphy, also a New York City police
commissioner, led the drive against corruption in the 1960s.