Select Murphy Miscellany

Here are some Murphy stories and accounts over the years:

The Murphys of Leinster

The first of the Murphys of county Wexford in Leinster is said to have been Murchadha who had come from a sept that had separated into three separate groups - the MacMurroughs (Murphys), the Kavanaghs and the Kinsellas.  Murchadha’s grandson was Dermot MacMurrough, the man who is believed to have invited the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1170. 

Subsequently, large amounts of territory in Wexford were under the control of the Murphys.  Their principal strongholds were at Morriscastle, Oularteigh, Toberlamina, Oulart and Ballaghkeen.  The final Murphy chief to be designated in the traditional Gaelic system of tanistry was Murtagh.  He upheld English law in 1461 and this enabled him to pass on his property and territory to his descendants.

One of these descendants, Donal Mor O’Morchoe, had his lands seized by the English towards the end of the 16thcentury.  The last leader of the Murphy clan, Connall O’Murchoe, died at Castle Ellis in Ballaghkeen in 1634.  There followed Murphy land confiscations during Cromwell's time.  The Murphys of Oularteigh managed to hold their lands and did so up to recent times.

Other Murphys to lose their title and lands were those of the Tipperary clan who also suffered at the hands of Cromwell.  Murphys did hold onto some lands at Ballymore near Cashel until that land was sold in 1848

Father John Murphy in 1798

Father Murphy was a parish priest in the small village of Boolavogue in county Wexford when the 1798 Irish Rebellion erupted. 

Originally he was against the revolt and even tried to persuade local people in the area to lay down their arms and to align themselves to British rule. However, having witnessed the brutal actions of the British forces against the local population, Father Murphy showed courage and leadership by gathering “the pikemen” of the area and commanding them in battle as part of the rebellion. 

Victories followed at Oulart Hill and at Enniscorthy, but then reverses at Arklow and New Ross weakened his troops.  Following the United Irishmen’s defeat at Vinegar Hill, Father Murphy went on the run before being captured in Carlow. His capture ultimately culminated in his hanging, his head being impaled on a spike in public view to warn all locals against partaking in the rebellion.

A century after his death in 1898, the ballad Boolavogue was written to pay homage to his heroism.

Murphy's Irish Stout

The Murphy brothers who founded the Murphy Brewery in Cork in 1856 could trace their ancestry back to Nicholas O’Murphy who had come to Cork city from Carrigrohane sometime around 1710.  

James J. Murphy drove the business forward and by the 1880’s Murphy’s Irish Stout was one of the premier beers of Ireland.  The Malthouse, built in 1889, became a Cork landmark.  The last direct descendant of James J. Murphy running the business was Colonel John FitzJames who held the reins from 1958 to 1981. Ownership now resides with the Dutch beer company Heineken. 

Local Irish history pits the Guinness drinkers of Dublin squarely against the Murphy's drinkers of Cork. There has long been a lively rivalry between the two, with Murphy's viewed as the more "craft" stout, and Guinness being the more mainstream.  The waters of the Lee river in Cork allegedly gave Murphy's its quality

Murphys Inside Ireland and Outside

With the the Irish emigration, there are today more than four times as many Murphys outside post-partition Ireland than within.

Numbers (000's)
Elsewhere (1)    
(1) Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Murphys in England

Murphys in 1881
Numbers ((000's)
Liverpool and environs
Other Lancashire
Glasgow and environs

Martin Murphy of Sunnyvale

The Martin Murphy family, founders of the city of Sunnyvale in California, constructed the Murphy family home there in the 1850’s.  Since there were no sawmills near Sunnyvale at that time, the Murphy family had the home milled to their specifications in Bangor, Maine.  It was then shipped in pieces around Cape Horn to Sunnyvale where it was later assembled.   It was the first wood frame house in Sunnyvale.

Martin Murphy also brought the railroad to Sunnyvale and helped to establish the Convent of Notre Dame and Santa Clara College, the first institution of higher learning in the area.

Martin’s brothers John and Daniel struck gold in the Sierras, then made a fortune selling dry goods to local miners and Native Americans.  The town they established in the Sierra foothills still bears the family name of Murphys. 

Martin’s house in Sunnyvale was said to have been the site for the largest private party ever held in California.  It was held in July 1881 to mark the 50th wedding anniversary of Martin Murphy and his wife.  By that time he had become a huge landowner throughout the state of California.  General invitations were sent out and it is estimated that over 10,000 people came.  Special trains ran from San Francisco and San Jose and the party lasted for three days.

The Murphy home was continuously lived in by the Murphys until it was given to the city of Sunnyvale in 1953.  In 1958 it was made a California State Historical Landmark.  However, three years later the house had to be demolished after a fire.  What stands today, the Sunnyvale Heritage Park Museum, is a recreation of what once was there.

John Murphy in Argentina

On April 13, 1844 John Murphy, aged 22, and his two cousins left their home in Kilrane on a cart to Wexford town which was some 20 kilometers away.  From there they embarked for Liverpool where they invested a small fortune to join 115 other Irish emigrants and buy tickets to South America on the brig William Peile. Each ticket cost £16 per head, which at that time could easily amount to more than an entire annual income.

Their departure inspired a local teacher, Walter MacCormack, to compose the song The Kilrane Boys, which contained the following refrain:

"There's Billy Whitty and his bride, their names I will first sound,
John Connors and John Murphy from Ballygeary town.
Mick Kavenagh and Tom Saunders, two youths that none can blame,
James Pender, Patrick Howlin, and four from Ballygillane.

Larry Murphy from Kilrane joined them in unity,
They're bound for Buenos Aires, the land of liberty."

John Murphy landed with just £1 in his pocket. But he soon found work and toiled for eleven years as a sharecropper before he was able to buy land and start his own sheep ranching business.  He prospered. When he died in 1909 at the age of 87, he left a large family and a substantial fortune.

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